Elon Musk has been using his Twitter platform to tweet about Anthony Fauci, MD, not just once, not just twice, but more times than twice. And Twitter has literally been Musk’s platform since the billionaire acquired the company in a $44 million deal. Now Fauci’s wife, Christine Grady, MSN, PhD, has entered into Musk’s mix. On December 28, Musk tweeted the following about Grady, the Chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center: “Almost no one seems to realize that the head of bioethics at NIH – the person who is supposed to make sure that Fauci behaves ethically – is his wife.” Musk punctuated this statement with an emoji wearing a monocle and a Wikipedia entry on Grady, because aren’t emojis fun:
Umm, just because someone has the words “Chief”, “Bioethics”, and “NIH” in her title doesn’t mean that she heads all of bioethics at NIH. That would be like saying that a head barista runs all of coffee everywhere just because “head” is in that person’s title and that person deals with coffee. Or that a musk rat somehow oversees everything that Musk does, just because they share the word “musk.” David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, a Professor of Surgery and Oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, tweetsplained to Musk in a tweet-response thread what Grady and the Department of Bioethics at the NIH Clinical Center actually does:
Again Grady is the Chief of the Department of Bioethics at the NIH Clinical Center and not Chief of all that Fauci does, at least not at the NIH and professionally. She is also Head of the Section on Human Subjects Research at the NIH Clinical Center. The NIH Clinical Center sits within the NIH but is not the same as the whole of NIH. To understand this distinction, consider this analogy: offering someone a horse is not the same as offering someone an entire horse farm.
The NIH Clinical Center describes itself as “the nation’s largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research.” The Department of Bioethics, in turn, “conducts conceptual, empirical, and policy-related research into bioethical issues; offers comprehensive training to future bioethicists and educational programs for biomedical researchers and clinical providers; and provides high quality ethics consultation services to clinicians, patients, and families of the NIH’s Clinical Center and advice to the NIH IRBs, investigators, and others on the ethical conduct of research.” Gorski went to emphasize that this does not mean that this Department of Bioethics or its Chief oversees Fauci in any way:
As Gorski explained, Grady also does not oversee human subjects research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which Fauci directed from 1984 until the end of 2022. The NIH Clinical Center is separate from NIAID. Instead, an institutional review board (IRB) has to review every study that uses human subject for any ethical concerns and then offer approval before the study can commence. Such IRBs typically are situated at the institutions where the research is going to be conducted. Thus, once again, Grady is “NOT the person who makes sure Dr Fauci acts ethically,” as Alastair McAlpine, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver in Canada, tweet-responded to Musk:
This was the first time Musk tweeted about Grady. And looks like he did so because of her marriage to Fauci. Musk has certainly had Fauci on his mind since Musk’s Twitter takeover. For example, there was that whole “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” tweet that Musk posted in mid-December that I covered for Forbes. That tweet got a lot of show-me-the-evidence pushback from others on Twitter.
But just because Grady is married to Fauci doesn’t mean that she hasn’t had her own separate career. According her NIH biography, Grady has authored over “175 papers in the biomedical and bioethics literature and authored or edited several books, including The Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics. She served from 2010-2017 as a Commissioner on the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.” She’s an “elected fellow of the Hastings Center and of the American Academy of Nursing, a senior research fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.” Once again, all of this doesn’t mean that Grady has ethical oversight over Fauci, at least professionally, that is.
Speaking of oversight, who at Twitter and outside Twitter have oversight over what kinds of information get spread on the social media platform? After all, you wouldn’t want misinformation and disinformation to be spread about science and scientists, right? Would it make sense to have an independent and transparent review panel, sort of how IRBs review and oversee human subjects research? After all, you wouldn’t want to keep all of this just within the family, would you?