Dr Fauci honored with Ryan White Award for his commitment to preserving scientific integrity: News at IU: Indiana University

Ryan White’s 50th birthday is said to have taken place on December 6, the same night Dr.Anthony Fauci received the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award.

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington Rural AIDS / STD Prevention Center created the annual award to recognize individuals who are “exemplary bearers of the standard of excellence and commitment. necessary to fight HIV / AIDS ”.

Fauci joins a who’s who of past winners, including pioneers and activists such as Dr Joycelyn Elders, Dr C. Everett Coop and Greg Louganis. Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White Ginder, was the first recipient of the award, in 2009, for her continued work as an advocate and activist for people living with HIV / AIDS.

In welcoming remarks, School of Public Health Dean David Allison highlighted Indiana University’s motto, “Lux and Veritas,” which means “Light and Truth.” He praised Fauci for taking on challenges throughout his career that required him to be courageous in the face of criticism and speak the truth even when those truths were unpopular.

To understand the significance of this award and the advancements in the field of HIV / AIDS prevention, it is important to understand the legacy of Ryan White. White was 13 when doctors found out in 1984 that he had AIDS after receiving blood products for his hemophilia. At that time, little was known about HIV / AIDS, and researchers were still discovering methods to suppress the virus in patients.

When White’s diagnosis became public, he was banned from attending school, although health officials informed administrators it was safe for him to join his classmates.

Rather than retreat into solitude, White and his mother fought for his right to return to school. His story quickly gained media attention and White became an international spokesperson, dispelling myths about HIV / AIDS and capturing the hearts of Americans with eloquence, courage and grace.

White planned to attend Indiana University at Bloomington in the fall of 1990, but died that spring at the age of 18. He left an indelible mark on the world – a legacy defined by teaching others empathy, knowledge and truth.

The experience of treating patients like White has shaped Dr.Anthony Fauci’s work as a physician, researcher, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr William Yarber, senior director of the Rural Center for AIDS / STD Prevention and senior professor at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, asked Fauci in a fireside conversation about his desire to preserve scientific integrity while facing the challenges of the Council of Seven Presidents. during major public health crises, including HIV / AIDS, H1N1, Ebola and COVID-19. Fauci said he started his career as a physician and because of his one-on-one experience with patients at the start of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, he made an empathetic approach to patient care his top priority.

During those early days, the experiences of people living with a diagnosis were similar to those of White. Many have been completely excluded from their communities. The stigma surrounding HIV / AIDS has prompted some politicians to avoid addressing the problem proactively despite the need to act. Political leaders basically said “talk to Fauci” in response to activist groups calling for responses.

Fauci has become the face of the federal government’s response, so when activists needed a public figure to direct their frustration to, they turned to him. Rather than hiding from activists, Fauci said he humbly listened to them. He worked with them and showed that his # 1 priority was the same as theirs: saving lives.

Dealing with those who did not understand or disagree with his work has been a common thread throughout Fauci’s illustrious career. During the conversation, he shared an anecdote about the wise advice he received before his first visit to the White House, to advise President Reagan in 1985. A good friend, who worked for a previous administration, has offered words of wisdom which he said still apply. today.

“When you walk into the White House make sure you tell yourself that maybe this is the last time I’m going to walk into this place because I might have to tell the president something that is an inconvenient truth. “said Fauci. “If you follow this principle, you will either be kicked out and never (asked for) again, or they will respect you for telling the truth.”

Politics and public criticism are indeed obstacles that scientists must be prepared to overcome. Yarber, who taught at Indiana University for nearly 40 years, wrote the nation’s first AIDS curriculum and spent much of his youth researching HIV and education. sexual.

Yarber said he has received hate messages over the years from those who question the value of his work. He brings up these questions with his students as they will undoubtedly face criticism at some point in their careers.

“We teach students at IU Bloomington not to be intimidated,” Yarber said. “Hate will not interfere with the work we do. People have a right to know more about their sexual health.”

Fauci offered similar advice to today’s students who want to be tomorrow’s leaders in science and medicine.

“Never compromise your principles,” Fauci said. “Never compromise your integrity and never be afraid to say it the way it is. And if the people you deal with have character and integrity, they will take whatever you tell them.”

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