After five decades of service to America, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced in August 2022 that he will be stepping down from being the chief medical advisor for the White House and from his leadership role at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Whether you agree or disagree with his methods or actions, one thing we can all agree on is he’s left a lasting legacy with African Americans.
The Root recently sat down with Dr. Fauci at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery 2022 gala to reflect on the Black community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fauci was one of seven individuals given the Portrait of a Nation Award for transforming the history and culture of the United States. Others were José Andrés, Clive Davis, Ava Duvernay, Marian Wright Edelman, Serena and Venus Williams.
During our interview, Dr. Fauci laid out why the Black community was not prepared for Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, and how we changed it around.
Healthcare officials have learned the depth of systemic issues putting African Americans at a disadvantage, including essential jobs which exposed us more.
In fact, Fauci explained that essential workers are less likely to “sit in front of a computer safely in their house and often housing isn’t as good because of socioeconomic situations so there’s crowding. So they have the risk of getting infected is greater.”
Along with poor housing, Fauci said “there are the underlying conditions that are much more prominent amongst African Americans, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, chronic renal disease, and chronic lung disease so when they do get infected, they have a greater chance of having a severe outcome.”
Despite all of those issues, he credits the Black community for putting in the work to encourage other people in the community to get vaccinated and take care of themselves. “Many African Americans listened to the messages of their community people, their preachers, clergy, and people like myself who spend a lot of their time on Black media getting out there, and they got vaccinated so now they turned the tide. Now they’re doing better (than white Americans). That’s what happens when you follow good public health practices.”
He also believes that healthcare will continue to get better for Black Americans when more of us work in the medical industry. In order to have a healthier Black community, we have to see more people that look like us to trust that they’ll do what they can to give us the best care.
When asked if young Black Americans should get into healthcare? he said: “We need great diversity in our public health, in our scientists in our positions because diversity is the way to get the community to appreciate and participate in the things that save their lives and keep them healthy. When you have a young African American bright physician tell you to do something, it’s much more likely they’ll listen than if you get a white guy in a suit.”