IRVINE (CBSLA) — Graduates of UC Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences had quite the special guest speaker during their virtual commencement — Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci, speaking from Bethesda, Maryland, acknowledged that celebrating a college graduation virtually, without their professors, fellow students, and friends and family, was “extremely disappointing at best.”

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“However, we must adapt to this extraordinary situation as you have done so well and unite in overcoming this COVID-19 challenge,” Dr. Fauci said. “Please hang in there. We need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to get through this difficult time.”

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Graduates were surprised and excited to hear from the doctor, who has become a household name amid the coronavirus crisis.

The doctor said that graduating from UCI’s School of Biological Sciences program had given them valuable training to become leaders in the biomedical response to the current pandemic, and other public health challenges.

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“In the next phase of your lives, whether you help patients, conduct research on medical solutions, or more likely contribute simply as connected and caring members of society, all of you will be doing your part, together with the rest of us, to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic,” he said.