America's Best Leaders: Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A leader on HIV/AIDS and a straight talker on key health issues

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Anthony Fauci

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It has been more than 50 years since Tony Fauci ran the floor in Catholic Youth Organization basketball as captain and point guard, but he is still calling signals. In June, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for leading the fight against HIV/AIDS and other devastating epidemics world wide. He recently spoke with U.S. News's Avery Comarow. Excerpts:

On the art of persuasion. There's more than one way to get to the goal that you want to get to, but once you compromise your own principles, then you're lost. You're really lost. You just can't do that, even if it means that people are going to be disappointed in you and you might not find yourself in the inner circle. Every time I go to a meeting in the [White House's] Roosevelt Room or the Oval Office or in the chambers of Congress, I keep in my mind that I may have to say something that will disappoint people, and if that disappointment leads to my not getting asked back, so be it.

On being principled without destroying relationships. You maintain a respect for the other person, and you reflect that in how you deal with that person—although you may disagree with them, you respect them and their right to have their view. I've had discussions with people who somehow just didn't get it. You never walk away in frustration. Some people feel, you make your case, if they listen to you, fine, if they don't, that's it. That's not what leadership is. Leadership is trying to continue to make a case.

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