We the Partnership

Thank you, Dr. Francis Collins

By Max Stier
December 28, 2021 | Updated on January 6, 2022

As another pandemic-scrambled year nears an end, the Partnership thanks a bright light in government who both oversaw COVID-19 work on vaccines and treatments and has worked to buoy federal employees throughout the pandemic: Dr. Francis Collins.

Francis, a physician-geneticist who stepped down as director of the National Institutes of Health on Dec. 19., has a long list of accomplishments and awards to his name. He is highly respected in the medical and scientific research communities for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, and for his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which mapped the gene sequence of human DNA.

The Partnership also recognizes him for his stalwart leadership of and support for federal employees. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to thank Francis in person in October, at our annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® program. We invited him to present awards to two NIH employees.

In fact, the Partnership has celebrated 27 Sammies finalists from NIH over the 12 years Francis led the organization. Fourteen of those finalists went on to win medals.

Francis also participated in annual Public Service Recognition Week events to celebrate civil servants. One year, he joined Sammies finalists being honored at Nationals Park, singing the national anthem with his guitar. For the entire stadium.

This year, he encouraged employees to join him in participating in a social media campaign for PSRW and public service in general. For his photo contribution, he held up a handwritten placard stating, “I love public service because helping people through medical research provides a wonderful sense of purpose.”

In the 2020 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings of subcomponents, NIH held steady near the top of the standings, despite the organization’s consuming drive and long hours to find COVID-19 cures and treatments. Throughout that time, NIH leadership shored up employees with ongoing communication and assistance, including a website for employees providing COVID-19 resources. One indication of Francis’ efforts to stay connected was his weekly video interviews with staff members, produced in his home to send to theirs.

Francis may have stepped down as director, but he remains in public service. He plans to continue to work in his lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute. He has also appeared in the media, updating viewers on recent pandemic twists and turns and keeping up the drumbeat on how to stay safe.

The Partnership and the country have been lucky to have Francis in our corner. Thank you, Francis, for your long and continuing federal service, your leadership and your support.

Photo credit: Joshua Roberts for the Partnership for Public Service / Kennedy Center


Max Stier

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