KU Health System doctors express praise for Fauci’s leadership from HIV to COVID-19

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TOPEKA — Two University of Kansas Health System physicians praised Anthony Fauci’s public service at the National Institutes of Health during a half century of work marked by challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the HIV-AIDS epidemic.

Fauci served 38 years as director of the NIH’s allergy and infectious diseases institute before retiring Saturday from governor service. He served five presidents — two Republicans and three Democrats. President George W. Bush, a Republican, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for work developing an international AIDS relief program.

Fauci helped lead the White House’s COVID-19 task force under GOP President Donald Trump and was Democratic President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. During the pandemic, Fauci came under repeated political attack by U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican.

Steven Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said the challenge for Fauci and other public health professionals during COVID-19 could be compared to building an airplane while flying.

“He did a great job of trying to tell us the truth as we knew it at any point in time,” Stites said. “He’s been brilliant throughout this crisis. He has had withering criticism for reasons that are quite frankly, if you really understand the medical science behind this, just completely unfounded.”

Dana Hawkinson, director of infection prevention and control at the University of Kansas Health System, said Fauci was a voice of reason when AIDS was recognized as a disease and four decades later when COVID-19 swept the nation in 2020.

“Unfortunately, as we know, the pandemic has been really politicized,” Hawkinson said. “A hero to many despite all of the unneeded and unbacked animosity and criticism towards him.”

Marshall, a physician and former western Kansas member of the U.S. House elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020, questioned Fauci’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Marshall also promoted theories the U.S. Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention inflated coronavirus fatality numbers.

Marshall alleged Fauci engaged in a conspiracy to conceal origins of the COVID-19 virus at laboratories in China. Marshall blamed Fauci for U.S. funding of research in China involving genetic manipulation of viruses that contributed to what the senator concluded was a “weapon of mass destruction.”

In January 2022, Marshall and Fauci engaged in a tense exchange at a Senate committee hearing in which the senator asserted Fauci was blocking public disclosure of financial documents the senator said could point to Fauci’s use of insider knowledge to invest in pharmaceutical companies. After that back-and-forth conversation, Fauci reportedly referred to Marshall as a “moron.”

Marshall proposed the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals Act, or FAUCI Act, to require disclosure on a government website the financial records of certain federal government officials.

“He is more concerned with being a media star and posing for the cover of magazines than he is being honest with the American people and holding China accountable for the COVID pandemic,” Marshall said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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