Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. is stepping down as director for the National Institutes of Health. Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, he went on to serve both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden over the next 12 years, making him the longest serving presidentially appointed director in NIH history. Before his work at NIH, Collins led the National Human Genome Research Institute, which successfully mapped human DNA in 2003.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” said Dr. Collins. “I love this agency and its people so deeply that the decision to step down was a difficult one, done in close counsel with my wife, Diane Baker, and my family. I am proud of all we’ve accomplished. 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. I’m most grateful and proud of the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day.”
In his role, Collins was vocal about his faith as an evangelical, challenging notions of a strict divide between faith and science. He saw science as evidence of the divine instead of an alternative to it, and worked to bridge community divides with his plainspoken manner. Over the last few months, he’s expressed frustration with some Christians’ vaccine hesitancy and has urged his faith community to embrace the COVID-19 vaccinations as a safe, effective way to halt the pandemic. “It seemed like this was something everybody would run to embrace,” Collins told RELEVANT in September. “Yet, obviously, it’s been a little more complicated than that.”
“If God gave us the gift of being able to understand viruses and the immune system, and be able to use that information to develop something that’s going to save hundreds of thousands of lives, doesn’t that seem like something that God has provided for us as a way of protecting us?” he continued.