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Fauci Talks Pandemic Preparedness, Political Divisiveness at Ken Shine Lecture

Jan. 14, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas – Investment in preparedness, the role of ideological divisiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic and a need for greater collaboration between federal and local government were among key elements that physician scientist Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., discussed as he was honored with the 2021 Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership, presented by Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.

“There are states and cities and regions where the hospitals themselves are being overrun … In that environment, people still say it’s a hoax, there’s no such thing as COVID-19,” said Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It seems to me to be unimaginable that when, in your own backyard, that is happening…We’ve got to engage and figure out what is it that’s separated us so profoundly.”

The award presentation and conversation, hosted by Dell Med Dean Clay Johnston, M.D., took place virtually via Zoom among more than 2,000 attendees and was livestreamed on YouTube. Read more about it, and watch a recording of the event here.

“You’ve been a shining light for those of us in our communities that have been working hard to advance science – the importance of science, the importance of epidemiology, of following data, of adapting to change, of caring for each other,” Johnston told Fauci.

Fauci suggested that the time leading up to the next pandemic is when investment in future preparedness is needed. “I would hope that we do not forget that, and realize that we really do have to take a serious look at pandemic preparedness including the ability to do massive testing, including the ability to re-strengthen our local public health system.”

Regarding the current balance of state and federal roles in the pandemic, Fauci responded, “There has to be some commonality of direction because the states, as hard as they try, often look for some sort of guidance from the federal government but with the guidance has to come some support. So I think we have to maybe reset the balance a bit. I have always been one who feels that there needs to be a bit more collaboration and cooperation between the federal government and the states.”

The annual prize and lecture are made possible by the Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Excellence Fund in Health Leadership, endowed in 2016 in honor of the former executive vice chancellor for health affairs of The University of Texas System. Shine joined in the discussion today with Fauci and Johnston, citing Fauci as “a superb bedside physician,” and underscoring his leadership as one that “clearly articulates the enormous overlap between clinical medicine and public health.”