Longtime National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins retires

Collins is the only NIH director to ever lead the agency under three consecutive administrations.

Updated: October 5, 2021 - 3:08pm

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Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, announced his resignation from his post Tuesday following close to three-decades at the agency – including 12 years at its helm.

The 71-year-old Collins is the longest serving NIH director and the first to serve under three administrations. 

"I fundamentally believe ... that no single person should serve in the position for too long, and that it's time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future," Collins said in a post on the Department of Health and Humans Services website.

Collins joined Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in becoming one of the most visible public health advisers and voices during the coronavirus pandemic. 

By training Collins is a geneticist, working in earlier stages of his career to identify the genes for cystic fibrosis and other disorders. He was nominated in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama to lead the NIH, a position for which he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

In 2007, Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for his work mapping the human genome. 

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