My colleague Marian is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-the-job-done person. A nurse leader, she’s very well qualified, experienced, and with shining common sense. She’s been astonishingly valuable in these last few weeks since COVID-19 turned the world inside out and we’ve had to rapidly innovate how to continue providing services while keeping everyone safe.

And Marian has a secret that I am prepared to divulge.

She has a professional “crush” on Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Her personal fan club includes sporting pins with his face on them, and when he is briefing on television it is not wise to interrupt her rapt attention. Now Marian is a happily ensconced family person, so perhaps I am over-reading when I think I detect a blush in her complexion, but I definitely am not over-reading the admiring look in her eyes when she quotes his latest words of wisdom.

Truth be told, I am desperate to join Marian’s Fauci Fan Club. I share her deep admiration and I really want one of those pins.

Apart from Dr. Fauci’s steady presence and obvious brilliance, what is it that draw us to him in droves?

Sometimes we need a life’s narrator, and that narrator must have an unwavering grip on the plot. A good narrator takes you from one place to another without dumping the whole story at one time. The story unfolds. We don’t know it all at once. It takes twists and turns.

Fauci is 79 years old and still runs several miles a day. He has advised six presidents on numerous infectious crises, including HIV/AIDs, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika, and through it all he has maintained the esteem of colleagues around the world. He has learned in the trenches how to help us understand the potential impact of what’s happening to us now with COVID-19 story.

He crafts the story setting so that we see not only ourselves but the landscape and whole cast of players, and then he gives us roles to play in shifting the plot—like those “choose your own ending” books some kids like to read. Chiding us every now and then to remember how important it is to play our parts well so we reach a wise ending, Dr. Fauci also expresses gratitude for our efforts. I think Dr. Fauci knows what we’re feeling. He knows we’re focused on now in a way that can be paralyzing, making us slow to act, or making us anxious to believe the crisis is over before it is. So he gently helps us think not only about now but also about tomorrow while we travel this dynamic, changing, unknown journey of a novel virus. He gives us bite-size pieces we can digest, and he knows to do this because he has narrated this story before.

And that’s why Marian loves him. It’s not only about the facts and science—where he clearly dazzles—but also because in the way he narrates the story he knows how to hold carefully and respectfully our uncertainties and assure us well with the art of a narrator who leads the way through a story most of us have not read before.



Antony Sheehan
Aspire Health Alliance