Amid his busy schedule as one of the country’s foremost health officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci sat down with Loyola students, professors and community members in a webinar Jan. 28 to speak about what leadership in medicine looks like to him.
Fauci became a prominent figure in the U.S. after gaining recognition for his role in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
He was appointed to the position in 1984 and has since been involved in combating the spread of many prominent infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola and, most recently, COVID-19. He was also recently appointed as the chief medical officer for President Joe Biden’s administration.
The webinar was hosted through Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine but was open to any student within the Loyola community. With such a high-profile speaker, the event was one of Stritch’s most popular ones, according to Naomi Gitlin — communications director at Loyola’s Health Science Campus (HSC), where Stritch is located.
The event garnered 3,010 unique viewers, according to Taylor Utzig, a communications specialist for HSC. It was moderated by John Hardt, Ph.D., Stritch’s vice dean of professional formation — a position focused on maintaining student wellness and other student support services. The conversation focused on the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and personal lessons Fauci has used to lead NIAID.
“I think for many people, Dr. Fauci presents not only as a very decent and honest person but also as a role model of what doctoring should look like, especially doctoring aimed at improving the health of the public,” Hardt told The Phoenix.
In addition to speaking about leadership in medicine, Fauci briefly spoke about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci said he’s hopeful America will be able to move past COVID-19 by the end of 2021 since he said he estimates 75-80 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
“It’s gonna probably take through the summer or beginning of fall to have a substantial portion of the population vaccinated,” Fauci said. “We can approach a degree of normality in the fall.”
The vaccine rollout within Illinois is still in its early phases. State officials are just transitioning to the 1B phase of the state vaccine plan, which seeks to vaccinate non-medical frontline workers, inmates and those over the age of 65. Biden said in a press conference Jan. 25 he aims to give out 1.5 million vaccinations per day within the near future.
This event isn’t the first time Fauci spoke at Loyola. In 2006, he spoke during the science portion of the College of Arts and Science (CAS) commencement ceremony. He also received an honorary degree from CAS that year for his work as a medical researcher.
Hardt said he was surprised the university was able to book Fauci for this event. He said he credits Fauci’s dedication to the medical community and affinity for Jesuit education as reasons why Fauci may have participated. Fauci earned his bachelor’s degree at College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit university in Massachusetts.
During the webinar, Fauci talked about how a Jesuit education helped him develop into the doctor he is — one who approaches medicine from a human perspective, not just a scientific one.
“I have always been interested in the human species, the humankind,” Fauci said. “When I figure out things and decisions I have to make and policies on global health, the humanism aspect of it just contributes as much or more than the [scientific aspect].”
Hardt said he believes Fauci’s humanistic approach to medicine and his recent rise to national prominence has inspired many around the country and has actually driven-up applications to medical schools in what he describes as the “Fauci-effect.”
Application numbers have risen for Stritch during its current cycle. The medical school has received 16,000 applications so far, which is a 12 percent increase from January of last year, according to Darrell Nabers, assistant dean for admissions and recruitment at Stritch.
“Candidates seem undaunted by the pandemic and its influence on their professional considerations,” Nabers wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “If anything, I would say that many candidates are more emboldened to move forward because of someone they know personally who has been adversely influenced by the pandemic in recent months.”
A previous version of this story called College of the Holy Cross Holy Cross University. It has since been corrected.