Anthony Fauci: Unfinished business  pg. 2

Anthony Fauci, M.D., stands next to Mother Teresa, winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor of Calcutta.
Photo courtesy of the Fauci family
In his journey from the rough-and-tumble immigrant neighborhood of his youth to the top echelon of American science, Fauci has exhibited a remarkably unwavering sense of purpose and self-confidence. All along, he’s been guided by a strong desire to discover new things, and to devote himself to public service.

Precision of thought

The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Fauci grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. He credits his father, a pharmacist, and particularly his mother, who died when he was in medical school, for encouraging him to strive for excellence. The thirst for intellectual achievement was fueled by his Jesuit teachers at Regis High School, where he was captain of the basketball team, and later at Holy Cross College, where he learned—as he puts it—“precision of thought and economy of expression.”

The Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic Church “is driven by intellectual curiosity—rigorous academic pursuits, openness and honesty without having any intellectual constraints put on you,” Fauci explains. The training prepared him well for life in Washington, where “you only have a very short time to express what it is that you need to express (and) to make it very, very clear,” he says.

Medicine was a natural career path for Fauci, as it balanced his love of science with his need to be involved with people. He attended Cornell University Medical College (now the Weill Medical College of Cornell University), and as a young resident there, already was displaying strong leadership skills.

“He seemed to always have the ability to cut to the most important issue and describe a plan of action in a very direct way,” recalls Steven Gabbe, M.D., former dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who was a medical student at Cornell when Fauci was a resident. “We’d have very, very sick patients. Tony would say, ‘Here’s the problem. Here’s what we need to do, and this is how we need to do it.’

“He was a great teacher,” Gabbe says. “I wanted to teach the way Tony taught.”

In order to satisfy his Vietnam-era military obligations, Fauci joined the U.S. Public Health Service and after two years of residency was accepted as a research fellow into the lab of Sheldon Wolff, M.D., at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. For Fauci, the NIH was the “hub of academic advancement and academic leadership.”

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