Most of the people in the US and around the world would know Dr Anthony Fauci as the face of President Donald Trump's administration's federal response team to the coronavirus. But there is another member in the team that has been instrumental in steering the White House's response in managing the pandemic. She is Dr Deborah Birx.
While Trump seemed vexed with Dr Anthony Fauci's assessment of coronavirus crisis in the country, he had been pleased with Dr Birx's.
The COVID controversy
According to an NYT article on Trump administrations' management of the coronavirus threat in the country and his rush to reopen the economy even when health experts and data on COVID 19 cases showed an unabated rise in infection, Dr Birx apparently provided a positive assessment to the administration which made it its ground for the call to reopen businesses across the country.
According to the report, Dr Birx was always eager to provide only "good news" about the coronavirus to the president.
However, the latest numbers on coronavirus cases in the country along with scathing criticism by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi criticizing her for spreading disinformation about the virus, Dr Birx is finding herself into the hot water.
However, before this controversy embroiled Dr Birx, she had an impeccable credentials to take pride in.
All you need to know about Dr Deborah Birx:
- She was born in Pennsylvania and had two older brothers with whom she had a very good bond. Even at a young age, she showed scientific temper and with her brothers set up a makeshift lab in her backyard. Over the years she went on to win many prizes in science competitions.
- She studied internal medicine and clinical immunology from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health. Her area of research has been of allergies and diagnostics, eventually focusing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research.
- In 1994 she become the Director of the United States Military HIV Research Program where she led the HIV vaccine clinical trial of RV 144, "one of the most influential HIV vaccine trials in history, according to her bio. It was the first vaccine that showed evidence of being effective in lowering the risk of contracting HIV.
- In 2014, Dr Birx was appointed Ambassador-at-Large and US global AIDS coordinator as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program by President Barack Obama.
- In the early months of 2020, when coronavirus pandemic broke out, Dr Birx was brought to aid the government response team to the coronavirus under the Trump administration by Vice President Mike Pence who described her as his "right arm" in that role.
Though currently, she is in the political cross hair for her perceived sharing of disinformation on coronavirus, she is said to have been shocked by Trump's over-enthusiasm for opening offices, schools, colleges, and the economy at large.
A video of her being shocked at Donald Trump's suggestion of UV light treatments and drinking disinfectants to treat coronavirus went viral in April.
But her enthusiasm to give positive information to Trump and her model-based assessment didn't go the way she had expected. In her assessment, she had suggested that the coronavirus in the US would follow a similar trajectory as they did in Italy. i.e sharp peak in infections before gradually declining. It didn't go that way.
As of Saturday, over 4.63 million people in the US were infected with the virus, and over and 154,619 deaths were reported due to COVID 19.
And now, she is drawing the flak for putting out misinformation about the coronavirus in April-May, some say, on the behest of Trump administration.