Elon Musk used his Twitter platform to tweet about Anthony Fauci, MD, not just once, not just twice, but more 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 Musk’s mix. December 28, Musk tweeted the following about Grady, the head of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center: “Hardly anyone seems to realize that the head of bioethics at the NIH – the person who is supposed to ensure 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 their title doesn’t mean she’s leading everything of bioethics at the NIH. That would be like saying that a head barista runs all the coffee everywhere just because “head” is in that person’s title and that person is in charge of the coffee. Or that a muskrat somehow oversees everything Musk does, just because they share the word “musk.” David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, professor of surgery and oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, tweeted to Musk in a tweet reply thread what Grady and the NIH Clinical Center’s Department of Bioethics are actually doing. :
Again, Grady is the head of the bioethics department at the NIH Clinical Center and not the head of anything Fauci does, at least not at the NIH and professionally. She is also Chief of the Human Subjects Research Section at the NIH Clinical Center. The NIH Clinical Center sits within the NIH but is not the same as the entire NIH. To understand this distinction, consider this analogy: giving someone a horse is not the same as giving 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 on bioethical issues; provides comprehensive training for future bioethicists and educational programs for biomedical researchers and clinical providers; and provides high-quality ethics consultation services to clinicians, patients, and families in the NIH Clinical Center and advice to NIH IRBs, investigators, and others on the ethical conduct of research. Gorski stressed that this does not mean that this bioethics department or its head is supervising Fauci in any way:
As Gorski explained, Grady also does not oversee research on human subjects 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) must review every study that uses a human subject for ethical reasons and then offer approval before the study can begin. These IRBs are usually located in the institutions where the research is going to be conducted. So, again, Grady is “NOT the person who makes sure Dr. Fauci acts ethically,” as Alastair McAlpine, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, responded. on Twitter to Musk:
It was the first time Musk tweeted about Grady. And it looks like he did it because of his marriage to Fauci. Musk has certainly been thinking of Fauci since Musk took over Twitter. For example, there was this whole “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” tweet that Musk posted in mid-December that I covered for Forbes. This tweet received a lot of backlash from other people on Twitter.
But just because Grady is married to Fauci doesn’t mean she hasn’t had a career of her own. According to his NIH biography, Grady is the author of over “175 articles in the biomedical and bioethical literature and the author or editor of several books, including The Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics.” From 2010 to 2017, she was commissioner at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She is an “Elected Fellow of the Hastings Center and the American Academy of Nursing, Senior Fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and an Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Medicine.” Again, all of this does not mean that Grady exercises ethical control over Fauci, at least professionally, that is.
Speaking of monitoring, who on Twitter and outside of Twitter controls the types of information released on the social media platform? After all, you wouldn’t want misinformation and disinformation being spread about science and scientists, would you? Would it make sense to have an independent and transparent review board, sort of the way IRBs review and oversee research involving human subjects? After all, you wouldn’t want to keep it all within the family, would you?