While the government response to the coronavirus pandemic has weathered plenty of warranted criticism, White House health advisor and coronavirus taskforce member Dr. Anthony Fauci has been a reassuring presence. A medical expert and gifted communicator, Fauci has a knack for stressing the urgency of the moment without sounding panick-y, anticipating Americans’ questions about the pandemic and answering them in a measured but forceful way. The physician, who has been advising the White House since the Reagan Administration, has become a bit of a star.
As noted by Georgetown’s Father David Collins, Fauci is a practicing Catholic and has often referred to the value of his Jesuit education in his current field. In 1989, he told the director of the NIH Historical Office that “I credit very much the Jesuit training in precision of thought and economy of expression in solving and expressing a problem and in the presentation of a solution in a very succinct, accurate way,” he said. “This has had a major, positive influence on the fact that I enjoy very much and am fairly good at being able to communicate scientific principles or principles of basic and clinical research without getting very profuse and off on tangents.”
In 2006, he wrote an essay for a book called This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women that detailed what he called “the three guiding principles that anchor my life”: “an unquenchable thirst for knowledge”, “striving for excellence” and “a goal to serve humankind.”
In the essay, Fauci again credits his Jesuit upbringing with teaching him to be “a perpetual student.”
“I sweat the big stuff and the small stuff! I do not apologize for this,” Fauci wrote. “One of the by-products of being a perfectionist and constantly trying to improve myself are sobering feelings of low-grade anxiety and a nagging sense of inadequacy. But this is not anxiety without a purpose. No, this anxiety keeps me humble. It creates a healthy tension that serves as the catalyst that drives me to fulfill my limited potential.”
While fear and anxiety remain constant companions, it does help to know that the hands of experts are near the wheel. Fauci is one such expert.