Departing NIH Director Dr. Collins reflects on a life in science 

The longest serving director of the National Institute for Health, Francis Collins, MD, reflected on his tenure at the agency and his life in science research with CBS on Dec. 20. 

Dr. Collins was appointed to head the NIH in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama and stayed on for 12 years to serve under two more presidents. 

He started his career in genetics and was part of a team that helped discover the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. In 1993, NIH recruited him to work on a human genome mapping project. Over his time heading the agency, he helped bolster the budget of NIH to nearly $50 billion a year.

He said he wishes the agency would've researched vaccine hesitancy more seriously, despite being very proud of the work his scientists put into studying COVID-19.

Dr. Collins said he plans to return to research after his retirement from NIH. 

"I have loved this role," he told CBS. "But 12-plus years is a long time to have a single leader of this largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. It's good to have new vision."

He stepped down Dec. 20.

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