Dr. Fauci Reads an Undergrad’s Entire Thesis, Then Follows Up with an Encouraging Letter

Photo via the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 

What are some qualities to look for in a leader?

  • A thirst for knowledge
  • A sense of duty
  • The scruples to give credit where credit is due
  • A calm, clear communication style
  • Humility

Dr. Anthony Fauci brings these qualities to bear as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health.




They’re also on display in his message to then-undergrad Luke Messac, now an emergency medicine resident at Brown University, whose research focuses on the histories of health policy in southern Africa and the US, and who recently tweeted:

13 years ago, I emailed Dr. Fauci out of the blue to ask if I might interview him for my undergrad thesis. He invited me to his office, where he answered all my questions. When I sent him the thesis, HE READ THE WHOLE THING (see his overly effusive review below). Who does that?!

Here’s what Fauci had to say to the young scientist:

It certainly reads like the work of a class act.

In addition to serving as one of the COVID-19 pandemic’s most recognizable faces, Dr. Fauci has acquired another duty—that of scapegoat for Donald Trump, the 6th president he has answered to in his long career.

He seems to be taking the administration’s potshots with a characteristically cool head, though compared to the furious criticisms AIDS activists directed his way in the 80s and 90s, he’s unlikely to find much of educational value in them.

Last March, The Body Pro, a newsletter for workers on the front lines of HIV education, prevention, care, and services quoted ACT UP NY’s Jim Eigo on the doctor’s response to a letter demanding parallel tracking, a policy revision that would put potentially life-saving drugs in the hands of those who tested positive far earlier than the existing clinical trial requirements’ schedule would have allowed:

Lo and behold, he read the letter and liked it, and the following year he started promoting the idea of a parallel track for AIDS drugs to the FDA. Had he not helped us push that through, we couldn’t have gotten a lot of the cousin drugs to AZT, such as ddC and ddI, approved so fast. They were problematic drugs, but without them, we couldn’t have kept so many people alive. 

Fauci, despite being straight and Catholic, was not only not homophobic, which much of medical practice still was in the late 1980s, he also wouldn’t tolerate homophobia among his colleagues. He knew there was no place for that in a public-health crisis.

Speaking of correspondence, Dr Messac seems to have taken the “perpetual student” concept Dr. Fauci impressed upon him back in 2007 to heart, as evidenced by a recent tweet, regarding a lesson gleaned from Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron, a 1977 documentary about bodybuilders:

Schwarzenegger explained how he would figure out what to work out every day by looking in a mirror and finding his weakest muscles. It’s pretty good advice for studying during residency. Every shift reveals a weakness, and greats never stop looking for their own.

In writing to Messac, Dr. Fauci alluded to his commencement speeches, so we thought it appropriate to leave you with one of his most recent ones, a virtual address to the graduating class of his alma mater, College of the Holy Cross:

“Now is the time, if ever there was one” he tells the Class of 2020, “to care selflessly about one another… Stay safe, and I look forward to the good work you will contribute in the years ahead.”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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Comments (6)
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  • WW says:

    I was in Special Op’s for 20 years, and know a leader when I see one. This guy isn’t a “leader”, he’s a self-licking lollipop! Where are the Lincoln’s and Roosevelt’s, out there?

  • Beata says:

    Could you provide a couple of specific reasons you believe he is not a leader and a couple of traits you believe
    are needed in a leader at this time?

    In my observation, Dr. Fauci has routinely kept the public informed on recent developments and new knowledge about Covid; walked a difficult line between politics and science; and has in an acceptable way spoken truth to power

    You on the other hand have been vague and negative with no knowledge provided to back up your statements. In fact, it is a waste of time to read your comment. Work a little harder to learn. It can be really rewarding.

  • WW says:

    You’re projecting. People like you give Trump the same treatment you described, so get off your high-horse. Look it up yourself, “scholar”, the Internet is your friend. Fauci is trying to keep his 15-minutes of fame for as long as he can, by moving the COVID-goalposts almost daily. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

  • gwr says:

    Well WW, there are certainly no “Lincolns and Roosevelts” (notice how I didn’t use apostrophes) in the White House right now. And please, dial down your own outrage — didn’t they teach you how to maintain a cool head in “Special Ops”. Jeesh, what some folks get triggered by!

  • Ray Collins says:

    When I was in high school and Fauci and his kooks told us all that by the 1990s 20 PERCENT of ALL Americans would be dead of AIDS, regardless of whether they practiced sodomy/copraphagia/IV drug use or not. When I saw him spouting off starting in February, I immediately knew the entire thing was cut from the same phony cloth.

  • Jeri says:

    Dr. Fauci is truly a class act, a leader of the highest caliber. He continually seeks knowledge and derives insight from every experience. He has steadfastly fought for better healthcare and makes it his number one mission to do his best to provide health information to the American people. He has a strong sense of duty, even when politics makes it very difficult for him to do his job. He’s humble, he treats others with respect and fairness, and he’s a fighter. These are the marks of a true leader.

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