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

TOPEKA — Two doctors from the University of Kansas Health System praised Anthony Fauci’s public service at the National Institutes of Health during his half-century work fraught with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and HIV-AIDS epidemic.

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

Fauci helped lead the White House’s COVID-19 task force under GOP President Donald Trump and was the chief medical adviser to Democratic President Joe Biden. During the pandemic, Fauci was repeatedly politically attacked by US Senator Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas.

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Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said the challenge Fauci and other public health experts faced during COVID-19 could be similar to building an airplane while it flies.

“He did a great job trying to tell us the truth as we know it at any given time,” Stites said. “He was great during this crisis. Frankly, if you really understand the medical science behind this, it’s received withering criticism for reasons that are completely unfounded.

Dana Hawkinson, Director of Health System Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Kansas, said Fauci was the voice of reason when AIDS was recognized as a disease and forty years later, COVID-19 swept the country in 2020.

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“Unfortunately, as we know, the epidemic has really been politicized,” Hawkinson said. “Despite all the unnecessary and unsupported hostility and criticism towards him, he is a hero to many.”

Marshall, a doctor and former western Kansas member elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020, has questioned Fauci’s role in the COVID-19 outbreak. Marshall also supported theories that the U.S. Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention had inflated the coronavirus death toll.

Marshall claimed that Fauci had conspired to conceal the origin of the COVID-19 virus in laboratories in China. Marshall blamed Fauci for US funding of research involving the genetic manipulation of viruses in China, which contributed to the senator’s conclusions as “weapons of mass destruction.”

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In January 2022, Marshall and Fauci had a tense exchange of views at a Senate committee hearing where the senator claimed that Fauci blocked the public disclosure of financial documents that the senator said could indicate that Fauci was using insider information to invest in pharmaceutical companies. After this back and forth conversation, Fauci reportedly referred to Marshall as a “moron”.

Marshall proposed the Uniquely Indemnified Individuals Financial Liability Act, or FAUCI Act, to require the financial records of certain federal government officials to be disclosed on a government website.

“She’s more interested in being a media star and being on the cover of magazines than being honest with the American people and holding China accountable for the COVID pandemic,” Marshall said.

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