In Conversation: Fauci Discusses New Memoir with Beauchamp, GUMC’s New EVP

Anthony Fauci and Norman Beauchamp sit in chairs onstage in Gaston Hall
Anthony S. Fauci, MD, recently sat down with Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MD, MHS, Georgetown’s Executive Vice President for Health Sciences, for a wide-ranging interview about his life and career. (All images: Elman Studio)

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(July 5, 2024) — After dozens of media interviews about his bestselling memoir, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, sat down with Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MD, MHS, Georgetown’s executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine, for a wide-ranging interview about Fauci’s life and career including reflections on his decision to join the faculty at Georgetown, coping with professional burnout, and his disappointment with medical societies.

Anthony Fauci, MD, On Call: A Doctor's Journey in Public Service book cover featuring a headshot of the author

Published in June, Fauci’s memoir, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service,” chronicles his upbringing rooted in Jesuit education and his long career in public service, including 38 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health. In his memoir, Fauci recounts how he navigated several public health crises, from AIDS in the 1980s to COVID-19 in the 2020s, and advised seven U.S. presidents, culminating in his service as the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.

Beauchamp, who joined Georgetown the day before the July 2 event, sat side by side with Fauci on the stage in the storied Gaston Hall, where other world leaders, along with scholars, entertainers and politicians, have been interviewed. Fauci joined Georgetown in June 2023 after retiring from the NIAID as a distinguished university professor with appointments in the School of Medicine and the McCourt School of Public Policy.

Why Georgetown?

Beauchamp’s interview with Fauci began with a question about why he chose to come to Georgetown.

“Jack DeGioia is a very special person,” Fauci said of Georgetown University’s president, who visited him at his NIAID office about a decade ago to make a special request. Fauci recalled DeGioia saying, “If you ever decide you want to leave the NIH for any reason, before you talk to anybody else, just come and see me.”

Fauci pointed out his strong connections with Georgetown. “My wife [Christine Grady] graduated here as an undergraduate. She got her PhD here. We got married in Dahlgren Chapel, and our three children were born in Georgetown [University] Hospital.” He continued, “But it was really mostly the fact that I knew that in this setting, with Jack as the leader, this would be the kind of environment I would like to spend the next several years, particularly interacting with students.”

Childhood Exposure to Jesuit Values

Beauchamp took Fauci back to his childhood in New York, describing him as “graced … to be born into an amazing family with very inspirational parents.” Beauchamp asked him to reflect on how his parents and Jesuit training impacted the many phases of his career.

Dr. Fauci and Norman Beauchamp sit in chairs onstage in Gaston Hall
Public service has “permeated everything I’ve done,” Fauci said.

Public service has “permeated everything I’ve done,” Fauci said.

The 83-year-old Fauci grew up in the working-class Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights sections of Brooklyn. He was inspired by his father, a neighborhood pharmacist. Despite the financial struggles of his clients to pay him, his father would often deliver medications to them, teaching Fauci and his sister the importance of community service from a young age.

“So bless his soul, he was a terrible businessman,” Fauci said. “The beauty of what he taught my sister and [me] … was that one of the most important things is service to the community and what you can give to the community.”

Fauci shared that his education reinforced these values, as he attended a Catholic elementary school and two Jesuit institutions — Regis High School and Holy Cross College — where the motto “men for others” emphasized service.

“Not that everybody has to go into official public service, but the theme was, to the extent that it is possible, when you pick a career, try and do it in a way that serves the public,” Fauci said.

Career Journey

Beauchamp shared the guidance of a mentor who told him that “multidimensional careers prepare you for the most impactful journeys,” before asking Fauci about his own career journey.

Dr. Fauci and Norman Beauchamp sit in chairs onstage in Gaston Hall
Before turning the conversation to focus on Fauci’s career journey, Beauchamp shared career guidance from one of his own mentors.

“Careers are not linear,” Fauci responded, noting the arrival of unexpected opportunities.

“You can get good training and you could plan what you want to do, but one of the exciting things about the evolution in your life is that opportunities come in front of you that you would not necessarily have anticipated,” he said. “And one of the things you really should try to keep an open mind is to when those opportunities drop in front of you, be flexible enough to be able to take the direction that those opportunities bring you.”

Fauci said that although he initially planned to practice medicine in New York after extensive medical training, his time at the NIH led him to discover a passion for research. This shift was further influenced by the emergence of HIV in the early 1980s.

“I decided that I really needed to meet the challenge of this brand-new disease driven not only by the challenge of the disease, but by this deep empathy … towards these young, almost exclusively gay men, who were suffering a terrible, terrible disease,” Fauci recalled.

“I felt, as a trained infectious disease person and as an immunologist, that this was a disease that was meant for me. So I did something again that was bold, maybe reckless. I turned around the direction of my career” he continued, describing his new research focus on HIV. “My mentors thought I was making a mistake, but then there goes the non-linearity of your career.”

This work eventually led to Fauci’s involvement in global health and public policy, including advising seven U.S. presidents, highlighting the unpredictable nature of career development.

“It isn’t as if I woke up one day and said, ‘I think I want to be the advisor to seven presidents.’ It just didn’t happen that way,” Fauci said.

Beauchamp responded by noting that Fauci was “clearly guided by purpose, serving others and courage. You had courage.”

Physician Burnout

Third-year medical student Arya Prasad (M’26) attended the book talk and jumped at the chance to ask Fauci about physician burnout. She recalled reading Fauci’s description of the first years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic before the development of effective treatment for the infection and how witnessing so much death led to what he now describes as PTSD.

“Now that we know a lot about burnout and the prevention of it and physician health … how did you make it through those years until you had those moments of vindication with antiretroviral triple therapy?” she asked.

“I refer to it as the dark years of my medical career,” Fauci said. “Those were difficult times. I survived it. I would have to tell you … I had a great support structure. My wife experienced it with me. She was a nurse before she became a bioethicist, and we were able to commiserate with each other and support each other. So I would be a great advocate to find a support structure that’s a friend, that’s a partner, whatever it is, to try and not be alone through it. Because if you’re alone through it, it becomes almost impossible to bear.”

Disappointment Revealed

Dr. Fauci and Norman Beauchamp sit in chairs onstage in Gaston Hall
“I’m a bit disappointed in the medical and health societies for not being more proactive in coming to the defense” of health care workers receiving threats, Fauci shared.

In contrast to the personal support he’s experienced, Fauci shared disappointment he harbors for medical and scientific organizations when audience member Elissa Newport, PhD, commended his bravery to talk about science and health during the COVID pandemic while at the same time being threatened.

“I’m a bit disappointed in the medical and health societies for not being more proactive in coming to the defense of health care workers, scientists, physicians and nurses who are getting attacked verbally and otherwise and threatened,” Fauci said. “I was sort of puzzled when we were getting threats myself … but a lot of my colleagues were also getting attacked, and I didn’t see any really explicit, forceful punching back on the part of medical societies.

“I hope in the future they do,” Fauci said.