The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) officially welcomed Dr. Anthony Fauci as an Honorary Fellow during a virtual ceremony on March 23. 

The prestigious award was conferred on Dr. Fauci by RCPI President Professor Mary Horgan, in recognition of his outstanding and inspirational professional leadership, remarkable energy, and unrelenting commitment to science as a vehicle to continuously improve the practice of medicine and public health.  

An Honorary Fellowship is the RCPI’s highest award and is reserved for world leaders in medical science and those who have made an exceptional contribution to society. Previous recipients of the award include the late former US Ambassador, Jean Kennedy Smith; former Presidents of Ireland, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese; current President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins; Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney; and Professor Dame Parveen Kumar and Dr. Michael Clark, authors of the world-famous textbook Kumar & Clark’s Clinical Medicine.  

Commenting on the awarding of the Honorary Fellowship to Dr. Fauci, Professor Horgan, the first female president of RCPI and a current member of NPHET, said: “Dr. Fauci has long been a highly inspirational figure for medical professionals and scientists around the world, and for me personally, both during my time in the US, and here in Ireland. 

“Having trained and worked in the US as an infectious disease specialist myself from 1990-1997, I witnessed Dr. Fauci’s outstanding work in overseeing the development of a research portfolio that transformed another pandemic, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, from an inevitably fatal infection to one where infected individuals can, with appropriate treatment, have a normal life expectancy.  

“His strong leadership and calm, evidence-based approach have contributed greatly to the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”  

During the virtual ceremony on Tuesday, which can be watched below, Dr. Fauci told Professor Horgan that vaccines bring great hope.

“Although we need to continue to be cautious because this virus has surprised us continually with various surges over the last year to fourteen months," Dr. Fauci said, "there is light at the end of the tunnel, particularly now that we have vaccines that have been proven to be highly efficacious and safe. 

“To me, this is going to be, as we call it, a real game-changer in what we've done. We're starting to see in countries that have just even begun to implement the distribution and implementation of vaccine programmes that there is clearly a diminution in hospitalisations and deaths.” 

He also noted, however, that we need to continue to be cautious. “As we've seen in the United States, the curve very sharply goes down, but for the last couple of weeks, it has kind of plateaued a bit. I don't think that that should cause us to despair, but that it should cause us to be cautious that as we continue to vaccinate more and more people, which will ultimately give us control of the outbreak, we've got to remember we can't just completely turn off all public health measures.

"The only time we can do that is when we have the virus very much under control at a very, very low case positivity.” 

He also highlighted the importance of science and data in responding to the pandemic, and the importance of always being honest about what this information shows. “We need to hold on to our fundamental principles of integrity … we have a responsibility – in some respects, more than any other field – to make sure that data and evidence drive what we do; that we are consistent; that we never, ever compromise our integrity by [not] going with the science and the evidence, either ignoring it or distorting it.” 

At the close of the virtual ceremony, Dr. Fauci remarked:  "As you may know, I have an Irish American wife who wants very much to take me back to the land where her great-grandparents were born. So I'll try my very best and I look forward to meeting you there when I go."

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, found in 1654, is the largest postgraduate medical training and professional affairs body in Ireland. You can learn more about the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland here.