Thursday, July 09, 2009

Virginian Francis Collins to Head NIH

During graduation season, I wrote an article that included a report about Dr. Francis Collins as the commencement speaker at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Collins has now been nominated to be the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by President Barack Obama.

Gardiner Harris reports in the New York Times:

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Dr. Francis S. Collins, a pioneering geneticist who led the government’s successful effort to sequence the human genome, as head of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Collins’s selection, which had been rumored for weeks, was praised by top scientists and research advocacy organizations for whom the health institute is a crucial patron.

Based in Bethesda, Md., the N.I.H. is the most important source of research money in the world; over the next 14 months it will dole out about $37 billion in research grants and spend $4 billion on research programs at its Maryland campus.

“Francis Collins is an extraordinary scientist and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
Gardiner notes, however, that despite expectations that Collins will face an easy confirmation by the U.S. Senate, there is some minor controversy that accompanies his nomination. One aspect concerns his management of the human genome project, while another is "unease" about Collins' evangelical Christian religious beliefs.

As a commencement speaker at VCU, Collins showed himself to be affable as well as brainy. He entertained the graduates and their family and friends with a parody rendition of "My Way," accompanying himself on the guitar.

His musical talents are mentioned in the New York Times story:
Dr. Collins earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University and a medical degree from the University of North Carolina. He likes to sing and play a guitar decorated with a double helix, the shape of genetic code.
(The article does not mention Collins' undergraduate education at the University of Virginia. Collins is a Shenandoah Valley native.)

Here, in three parts (the third part featuring the humorous musical climax) is Francis Collins' commencement speech at VCU on May 16.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

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1 comment:

Sarah said...

At any rate, I liked some of the NIH cartoons on VADLO search engine!