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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will present its Great Americans medal—the museum’s signature honor—to internationally recognized physician-scientist Dr. Anthony S. Fauci March 2. The medal presentation is part of the “Great Americans Award Program.” During the ceremony, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health, will be invited to select an object for the national collections that reflects his career. He will be the seventh honoree and the first physician to receive the award.
The “Great Americans Award Program,” supported by David M. Rubenstein, Smithsonian Regent and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, will feature a conversation between Rubenstein and Fauci preceded by the presentation of the “Great Americans” medal for lifetime contributions embodying American ideas and ideals. The free program will be streamed at 6:30 p.m. EST, and the public may access it by registering in advance at https://smithsoniannmah.swoogo.com/GAFauci.
“Dr. Fauci has helped save millions of lives and advanced the treatment and our understanding of infectious and immunologic diseases across more than five decades of public service,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.”
During the past year, the museum canvassed the nation, asking what it should collect to document this pandemic and invited the public to share their Stories of 2020, creating a digital time capsule for future generations.
Museum curators are collecting across all aspects of the current pandemic and working toward a future exhibition, “In Sickness and In Health,” that looks at more than 200 years of medicine in the U.S. including COVID-19. As part of that effort, the museum will seek additional items related to Fauci’s public health work. Currently, the museum holds ancillary Fauci materials, including a recent digital photography acquisition that includes a photograph by Francesca Magnani of a New York man sporting a T-shirt with the word “Fauci,” materials related to the July ceremonial opening pitch at the Washington Nationals baseball park and a 1995 oral history that is part of the John-Manuel Andriote “Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America,” collection, which includes numerous interviews related to the AIDS crisis.
Since its inception in 2016, the “Great Americans Award Program” has honored those who have not only made a lasting impact in their fields but those whose philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors set them apart. Appointed to lead NIAID in 1984, Fauci oversees an extensive portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat established diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as emerging diseases. He has advised seven U.S. Presidents on many domestic and global health issues and has made many contributions to both basic and clinical research related to immune responses and infectious diseases. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Fauci graduated first in his class from Cornell University’s Medical College in 1966.
About the “Great Americans” Medal
The museum will present Fauci with a specially minted medal struck in Wisconsin from 1.85 ounces of fine gold. It features an American eagle with rays of the sun on the obverse or “head’s side” with the words “Great Americans” and “National Museum of American History” engraved around the edge. The reverse side honors one of the museum’s most important treasures, the Star-Spangled Banner, and includes the mission of the Smithsonian: “For the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” It measures approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and was inspired by the rare Double Eagle coins in the museum’s National Numismatic Collection, which were designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the $20 gold piece. The medal was made possible by museum board member Jeff Garrett and designed by Michael Guilfoyle, an international designer of coins and medals.
The “Great Americans” medal is presented annually to up to two recipients and includes an interview with the awardee by Rubenstein. Previous honorees include Madeleine K. Albright, Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Thomas J. Brokaw, Cal Ripken Jr., Billie Jean King and Paul Simon. Videos of previous ceremonies are available at https://americanhistory.si.edu/great-americans.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. All Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.
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