New NIH Head Plans to Use His Pulpit; to Stress Benefits of Biomedical Research

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

New NIH Head Plans to Use His Pulpit; to Stress Benefits of Biomedical Research


Byline: Ann Geracimos, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Biomedical research is greatly in need of a bully pulpit, and the new National Institutes of Health director intends to fill it.

But when speaking to reporters Monday in Bethesda on the first day of his new job, Dr. Francis Collins declined to name, in order, any specific measures he intended to take. He said that he has a list of things I'd like to accomplish in the first six months, but didn't want to be held to account on any of them lest he fail.

Chief among them, he made clear, is the need for NIH to be more proactive and actively engineer an outreach program - not to overhype but as part of our education role.

This will mean a more effective communications strategy to inform the public about the many benefits that stem from clinical research - the meat and potatoes of an agency that, on its current 2009 budget of $30.6 billion, supports 325,000 research personnel at more than 3,100 institutions here and abroad.

To use that bully pulpit, Dr. Collins' wife, genetics counselor Diane Baker, may be out on the road spreading the word, he said. He also said he would encourage grantees to invite members [of Congress] to see what is happening in their areas of expertise.

Dr. Collins also said he would re-evaluate bureaucratic handicaps that slow the process of engaging human subjects in clinical trials.

But he also wants to put his agency in the middle of the national conversation regarding health care reform by providing evidence to assist decision makers in the direction we should go in putting science to work.

Already, he said, NIH has been doing research in assessing the quality of intervention. …

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