Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., returns ‘home,’ inspires students

November 15, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., met with members of the Michigan Medicine community in early November.

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the current director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), spoke to a group of more than 100 medical students and faculty earlier this month.

Collins was the guest of NextGen Med — a group committed to facilitating dialogue between global health care leaders and the U-M Medical School community regarding current challenges in medicine — and the medical school leadership curriculum. Collins, who previously served as a U-M professor of internal medicine and human genetics, spoke about his leadership journey, both as director of the Human Genome Project and of the NIH.

His reflections on his career path and his role as a leader in biomedical research left a large impact on the audience.

“One of the most encouraging aspects of his talk was regarding his outlook on politics and research, a subject some of us worry may interfere with our goals as physicians in the future to properly care for patients,” said Kelsey Carman, a first-year medical student. “Dr. Collins emphasized that, while our representatives may not agree on other political issues, they almost always agree on the need for quality medical research. As an older medical student, it was incredibly encouraging to hear about the winding path he’s taken, and how the unexpected successes come about, both in life and in medical research.”

Following Collins’ remarks, students and faculty reciprocated his enthusiasm for the future of medical research with insightful questions about the intricacies of biomedical research funding and the challenges of bringing genomics from the lab to the bedside.

“Having worked previously in public health research, to hear Dr. Collins say that our DNA, our genetic variations, will likely be housed in our electronic medical records within a decade made me excited to envision a future as a physician with that sort of data at our fingertips,” Carman said.

The event provided the UMMS community with the opportunity to learn about leadership in medicine and broaden their understanding of the role scientific innovations will play in their clinical careers. NextGen Med and the medical school leadership curriculum will continue to showcase innovators and problem solvers as they host more guests in the spring with the goal of inspiring current and future leaders in medicine.

“This was such an inspiring and energizing event for our students and I’m so proud to see how they initiated and organized this event,” said David Fessell, M.D., director of the leadership curriculum. “I was very fortunate to have Dr. Collins teach genetics to our class in this very room when I was a medical student, and his joy in being back “home” was palpable.”