Health and Wellness

The 'unhealthy' strategy Dr. Anthony Fauci relied on to balance his career and family

National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci talks to reporters in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci's job during the Covid pandemic is ridiculously busy: He hasn't taken a vacation in over a year, deals with 2,000 emails a day and somehow finds time for daily 3.5-mile power walks with his wife.

Turns out, the 80-year-old White House chief medical advisor has long been a workhorse — with a simple trick for raising his three children while "knee deep" in his work. That's according to "FAUCI," a new National Geographic documentary that chronicles Fauci's career as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, beginning with his work addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s.

At the time, Fauci and his wife, nurse bioethicist Christine Grady, were both consumed by researching and responding to HIV/AIDS. So they made a commitment to their children, Jennifer, Megan and Alison: As often as they could, they'd eat dinner together.

"No matter how late," Fauci said in the documentary.

At the time, Fauci often worked 12-to-13-hour workdays, which could have led to regular family dinners as late as 9 or 10 p.m. It was "physically is a little unhealthy," Fauci said. "I don't recommend it for people, but it worked."

His kids remember their delayed mealtimes slightly differently. "He would come into the kitchen and start dancing with my mom," Jennifer Fauci said. "I'm like, 'Dad, we want to eat dinner. Please come and sit down.'"

But there was a method to the madness: Research shows that eating dinner together as a family is a beneficial routine for families. It improves kids' social skills and communication, encourages healthier eating habits and can even boost children's academic performance.

Even at a young age, Jennifer Fauci said, the children understood: "When he's working, which is all of the time, he's laser-focused."

There were times, Grady added, when despite their efforts to have family dinner, Fauci wouldn't see his children for days at a time because of his work.

"I wouldn't say I neglected the raising of the children," Fauci said. "But I did not sacrifice professional things as much as maybe I should have." The demands of his job meant he couldn't attend "every soccer match, every track meet [and] every swim meet" with his kids, he said.

Fauci credited Grady, who also worked full time at the NIH, for making sure the household ran smoothly: "Chris did everything."

That dynamic apparently hasn't changed. Amid the Covid pandemic, Grady still encourages Fauci to rest, drink water, eat well, get sleep and "be selective about what he agrees to and say no to some things," she told CNBC Make It last year.

Fauci said fighting the Covid pandemic is like "a diabolical repeat" of the 1980s for him and his family. And though his kids are now adults, he said, their unyielding encouragement hasn't changed either.

"They see what I'm going through and what Chris is going through, and they just are amazingly supportive," he said.

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