Dr. Anthony Fauci has a pretty impressive résumé: He’s served as a medical advisor for seven U.S. presidents, and his work as the country’s leading infectious disease expert has earned him honors and awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And apparently, along with working tirelessly to end the COVID-19 pandemic, he spent the past year answering thousands of messages with the kind of class, kindness, and patience that most people have probably never conveyed over email in their lives.
According to over 3,200 pages of emails obtained by BuzzFeed News and published June 1, Fauci worked around the clock to answer questions from everyday Americans, offer his support to doctors, and (very) politely decline requests. His communication style over email isn’t unlike his demeanor during TV appearances — he’s careful, thoughtful, and empathetic, but also direct and to-the-point.
In one message from April, a White House fellow asked Fauci if he would co-write an op-ed on COVID-19. Fauci forwarded the email to several colleagues. “How do we nicely say no to this person?” he asked. In a note from March, a vocal instructor thanked him for his work, and added, “P.S. If your voice is tired from constant talking, here are 2 easy suggestions.” Fauci replied with a note of thanks and told the teacher that he would “try” the vocal exercises.
In some emails, frontline workers blew off steam and shared their thoughts, blaming former President Donald Trump, local leaders, governors, and even Fauci for America’s dismal response to the pandemic. In March, one Florida doctor asked for help and wrote that it was frustrating and terrifying to care for COVID patients and then drive home and see packed bars, beaches, and restaurants along the way. Fauci responded that he was “screaming on TV 2 to 5 times per night to tell the younger generation to start taking this seriously,” and he added that he was “very surprised” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hadn’t closed bars.
“I will bring this up at the Task Force meeting tomorrow,” Fauci closed his message. “Please take care of yourself. You are an indispensable front line warrior. Best regards, Tony.”
He responded to other doctors and essential workers with the same kind of empathy and respect, often thanking them for their notes and letting them know he would take their concerns into consideration. Frequently, he replied to complimentary emails with responses like, “Many thanks for your kind note. I hope that all is well with you.”
Some of Fauci’s emails make it clear that he's aware of his newfound celebrity. “One reviewer of the SNL show said that [Brad] Pitt looked ‘exactly like me.’ That made my year,” Fauci wrote. At another point, a colleague sent him a link to an article about merchandise and fan art with his face on it. “Truly surrealistic. Hopefully this all stops soon,” he responded.
But Fauci’s inbox doesn’t just reaffirm that he’s a sweet and caring man — it also shows the toll the pandemic took on him. At the very start of the pandemic in February 2020, he wrote, “I am really tired. Not much sleep these days.” The same month, a journalist sent him an interview request, and he forwarded the message to a colleague. “Let us discuss. Steve is a good guy, but I do not want to kill myself trying to do too many things at the same time,” he wrote.
At another point, he told a friend, “Am hanging in there. Feels like my internship and first year residency when I was on every other night and every other weekend, but actually never left the hospital because the patients were so sick.”
Fauci has spoken publicly about the near-constant work he’s been doing since February 2020 to spread accurate, up-to-date information and stop the spread of COVID. In an interview with Now This News published April 17, Fauci said that he hadn’t taken a day off work in 14 months. “Other than that, I’m doing fine. You just adapt yourself to it,” he said. “I don’t have any time to worry about how tired I am or how I’m feeling. I’ll worry about that later.” He also said that he has faced endless harassment and an onslaught of death threats, but isn’t worried about that, either.
None of this is surprising — Fauci has shown an impressive amount of professionalism and resilience while working a job pretty much no one else has ever done or will ever have to do. But the fact that, on top of doing this job, he continues to politely answer a steady stream of (sometimes very angry) emails? And deal with zero vacation after a massive burnout? If we're not going to have a national month off, let's at least give Dr. Fauci one.