Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday he’s ending more than a half-century of federal government service in December.
The 81-year-old Fauci, who became the face of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said he’s “not retiring in the classic sense,” intending instead to spend time traveling, writing and urging young people to enter government service, The New York Times reported.
“So long as I’m healthy, which I am, and I’m energetic, which I am, and I’m passionate, which I am, I want to do some things outside of the realm of the federal government,” Fauci said in an interview with the Times, adding he wants to use his experience to “hopefully inspire the younger generation.”
Earlier this year, Fauci tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced what’s known as a “rebound” case of the virus after an antiviral treatment. He said at the time the treatment, Paxlovid, “did what it was supposed to do” by keeping him from being hospitalized.
Fauci had headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 38 years and is President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser. He started at the National Institutes of Health in 1968 and became director of the infectious disease branch in 1984, during the AIDS epidemic.
His federal government career included advising seven presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, but it was his science-based approach to COVID-19 that turned him into a hero to many and a target to critics of the measures taken against the virus.
President Donald Trump threatened to fire him and some Republicans in Congress want to investigate him but Fauci told the Times that speculation he timed his departure to this year’s midterm elections that could give the GOP control of Congress is “nonsense.”
He also said in the interview he has no intention of taking a post in the pharmaceutical industry.
The announcement from Fauci does not come as a surprise. He told Politico in July he planned to leave by the end of Biden’s term. In his interview with The Times, Fauci said he thought about stepping down after Trump’s term ended but felt he couldn’t say no to Biden as the COVID-19 pandemic continued.
“So I stayed on for a year, thinking that at the end of the year, it would be the end of COVID, and as it turned out, you know, that’s not exactly what happened,” Fauci told the Times. “And now it’s my second year here, and I just realized that there are things that I want to do.”
Biden said in a statement that one of his first calls as president-elect was to Fauci, requesting his help in dealing with the coronavirus crisis the nation faced. The president praised Fauci, saying his “commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity.”