How We Recraft Dr. Fauci’s Position Matters So Much

After more than fifty years in government and 38 years as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony Fauci is finally heading for the door. Raymond J. March contends that deciding Fauci’s replacement is an important matter. His replacement will mean little without key reforms to Fauci’s position. 

The National Institutes of Health is already advertising for “exceptional candidates” to replace the outgoing NIAID boss. Candidates now in the running reportedly include Dr. Peter J. Hotez, MD PhD, professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Sounds good, but there could be a problem. 

As Jonathan Turley recalls, in a July 28, 2021 paper titled “Mounting Antiscience Aggression in the United States,” Dr. Hotez called for federal hate-crime prosecutions of those who criticize Dr. Fauci and other scientists. Whatever his academic qualifications, anybody who wants to criminalize the critics of Dr. Fauci should be disqualified from replacing him. 

Anthony Fauci earned a medical degree in 1966 but took a job with NIH two years later. His bio showed no advanced degrees in molecular biology or biochemistry, but in 1984 the NIH made Dr. Fauci head of NIAID, a choice more bureaucratic than scientific. 

In 2020 Dr. Fauci made questionable decisions such as locking down the healthy, closing schools, and recommending vaccinations for children, the group least vulnerable to COVID-19. The medical scientists of the Great Barrington Declaration urged a rollback of the lockdowns. Instead of engaging them in a debate on the facts, Dr. Fauci and NIH boss Francis Collins called for “a quick and devastating published takedown,” of the Barrington authors. 

Those authors include Dr. Jayanata Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford, and Martin Kulldorff, a former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a fellow at the Academy for Science and Freedom. In “The Collins and Fauci Attack on Traditional Public Health,” Bhattacharya and Kulldorff chart the attack and show the way ahead: 

In academic medicine, landing an NIH grant makes or breaks careers, so scientists have a strong incentive to stay on the right side of NIH and NIAID priorities. If we want scientists to speak freely in the future, we should avoid having the same people in charge of public health policy and medical research funding.

Dr. Fauci, who claims “I represent science,” commands that dangerous concentration of power. 

As Raymond March notes, the NIAID boss alone leads a $6.3 billion research organization and oversees a staff of 5,300 government officials and research in more than 100 countries. Such a vast operation, funded by taxpayers, should not be under the control of a single person. 

As Bhattacharya and Kulldorff contend, public health and medical research funding should be separate functions. The new NIAID boss should be under a five-year contract, renewable only once and subject to performance review. These reforms will help avoid the kind of misguided policies the nation experienced under Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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