How to Listen Like
How to listen like Dr. Anthony Fauci
October 29, 2021
October 29, 2021
"Yeah, I'm getting fired. But until then, I'm gonna be there, putting out the facts for whoever's listening. And when I hear things like, "The virus can be cured if everyone takes the Tide Pod Challenge," I'll be there to say, 'Please don't!'"
Dr. Fauci was speaking and the audience was hanging on his every word. He was talking about injecting disinfectant. And how the coronavirus would disappear like a miracle. And then he took off his glasses and wig and ended with “it's Saturday Night!"
Brad Pitt impersonating Dr. Fauci on Saturday Night Live last April was probably the pivotal moment when America's favorite infectious disease specialist arrived in pop culture. The sketch was about “Dr. Fauci” humorously trying to clarify some of President Trump’s comments that were made during White House coronavirus task force briefings. The President may not be listening to everything Dr. Fauci says, but the rest of us probably are, whether it’s a Saturday or not.
Most Americans only started hearing about Dr. Fauci when the coronavirus first appeared. But there are a few that remember him from back in the 1980s when he was a pivotal figure in another crisis – HIV/AIDS. Dr. Fauci has been director of NIAID since 1984 and has advised seven Presidents on HIV/AIDS. In 1988, activists protested outside of NIAID and were angered over the government’s handling of HIV/AIDS. They wanted to be heard and included in the conversation around clinical AIDS trials. At first, Fauci and the scientific community were not paying attention. But Fauci ended up coming around. He made a concerted effort to listen to them and tried to solve the situation.
Dr. Fauci recalls telling himself about the activists, “Let me put aside the goth dress—the earrings and the Mohawk haircuts and the black jackets—and just listen to what they have to say. And what they were saying made absolutely perfect sense.” Fauci looked for something in common: “They were all New York guys. I had a little affinity to them because I’m a New Yorker. And I said, What would I do if I were in their shoes? And it was very clear: I would have done exactly the same thing.”
My interest in medicine stems from my keen interest in people, in asking questions and solving problems,” Dr. Fauci told the NIH Historical Office. Fauci doesn’t close his door and hide out in his office all day. He isn’t afraid to put on his scrubs and treat patients at their bedside. He is still a practicing physician, and even among the frenzy of the coronavirus he does rounds in the NIH’s Clinical Center several days a week. During the Ebola outbreak in 2015, he reserved two hours a day to help treat a U.S. health care worker who was infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Fauci makes the time to truly listen to his patients because he understands he can learn a lot from them. He says, “I do believe that one gets unique insights into disease when you actually physically interact with patients.” Fauci has long believed that treating one patient can help treat many patients. He attempts to maintain a balance between research and clinical work and is so committed to pursuing both that he refused to drop his clinical practice when he became the NIAID director.
Dr. Fauci is constantly sharing his wisdom about how to deal with the coronavirus… wear a mask or two, make sure you social distance, wash your hands. Not only do we listen to his advice, but he makes a point to listen to himself. He really does practice what he preaches.
Like the rest of us, Dr. Fauci has been limiting his interactions for in-person celebrations. This is tough because family is the most important thing to him, and he cherishes his time with his wife and three daughters. Dr. Fauci turned 80-years-old last Christmas Eve and was a bit down because, “… I have never had a Christmas without the children since the day they were born.” He thought his birthday would be a small, low-key Zoom celebration, “Because I have been telling the country to limit travel and I don’t want to be one of those health officials who tells the world to do something and then they go out and have a party themselves.” He was completely surprised, and delighted, by a video call with numerous family and friends from around the world.
Dr. Fauci’s wife Christine Grady had spent two years in the early 1980s in Brazil working as a nurse educator and manager of ambulatory care. She picked up Portuguese and was called upon by doctors at the NIH hospital to translate for patients. One of those doctors was Fauci and they first met over the bed of a patient from Brazil that needed translation.
Grady recalled, “…Tony, in his very serious way, said, ‘Make sure that you do your dressings every day and sit with your leg up,’ and I forget all the details. But I translated that to the patient, and the patient said, ‘You are kidding. I am so sick of being in this hospital. I am going to go home, I am going to dance all night, I am going to go to the beach, I am going to do this.’ So I think to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?’ So I turned around to Tony and said, ‘He said he would do exactly as you said.’ I kept a straight face all the time.” Grady thought her little deception was discovered when Dr. Fauci called later that day -- but instead he asked her out on their first date!
Speaking of relationships, Dr. Fauci recently learned that his name is being thrown around in the dating world. And no, it’s not from people who want to date him (although there are probably a lot of them!). The term “Fauci-ing” means to “decline to date someone because you don’t feel they’re taking Covid-19 seriously enough.”
Dr. Fauci laughed when he heard about this definition and joked, “I’m gonna ‘Fauci’ you.” And that’s what you’ll hear too, if you don’t listen to Dr. Fauci.
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