Director of the National Institute of Health steps down


Dr. Francis S. Collins (Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health website).

Aiden Keenan, Photo Editor

Dr. Francis S. Collins has served as the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health Institution since his appointment by President Barack Obama in August 2009. On Oct. 5, he announced his plan to step away from this role, effective at the end of the day on Dec. 31, 2021. Dr. Collins has served under three presidential administrations, furthering national research in cancer and other diseases, as well as overseeing management of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The official release from the National Institutes of Health reported, “During his 12-year leadership, NIH’s budget grew by 38% from $30 billion in 2009 to $41.3 billion in 2021. Dr. Collins proposed and established bold initiatives — extending from fundamental basic science to translational science to focused projects — to tackle some of the most pressing health issues facing Americans, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic.” A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 and National Medal of Science in 2009, Dr. Collins has been working with the National Institutes of Health since 1993.

Dr. Collins acknowledged the difficulty he encountered in making the decision to step down. The NIH release mentioned his discussions with family members and loved ones. He said, “I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.” Acknowledging his interest in seeing new leadership within the organization, he steps away from his current role but looks to continue his efforts with the organization at the National Human Genome Research Institute

Considering John Carroll’s connections with the Cleveland Clinic, some students may be closely following developments. Students may eagerly await the nomination, which may possibly be a woman or person of color. Before his administration took office, President Biden affirmed his commitment to diversity within his offices. There has only been one woman director of the NIH thus far, appointed in the early 1990’s. If they are passionate about this appointment, JCU students can contact their congressional representatives to urge them to consult with President Biden on a specific nomination. 

After his resignation at the end of the year, President Biden will nominate a new director. This individual will then be confirmed to the role by the affirmative vote by a simple majority in the Democratic-controlled Senate, though it is still unclear who will be appointed to the role.