By Anthony Fauci
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
lthough I hesitate to use the hackneyed expression “It seems like just yesterday,” it does feel that way as I prepare to leave the National Institutes of Health after over five decades. As I look back at my career, I see lessons that may be useful to the next generation of scientists and health workers who will be called on to address the unexpected public health challenges that will inevitably emerge.
At 81, I still can clearly recall the first time I drove onto the bucolic N.I.H. campus in Bethesda, Md., in June of 1968 as a 27-year-old newly minted physician who had just completed residency training in New York City. My motivation and consuming passion at the time were to become the most highly skilled physician I could, devoted to delivering the best possible care to my patients. This remains integral to my identity, but I did not realize how unexpected circumstances would profoundly influence the direction of my career and my life. I would soon learn to expect the unexpected.
I share my story, one of love of science and discovery, in hopes of inspiring the next generation to enter health-related careers — and to stay the course, regardless of challenges and surprises that might arise.
It was during my residency training that I became fascinated with the interface between infectious diseases and the relatively nascent but burgeoning field of human immunology. As I cared for many patients with commonplace as well as esoteric infections, it became clear that physicians and other health care providers needed more tools to diagnose, prevent and treat diseases.