Voices of the NIH Community

“Did you ever think we’d be at NIH this long?”

Childhood friends Mike Alexander and Pat Johnson talk about their respective careers at the National Institutes of Health where they have both worked for nearly 40 years, and about how things have changed since they started at NIH.


Mike Alexander: Pat, did you ever think that we would be at NIH for this long in our lives, when we were young?

Pat Johnson: Umm, no.

Mike Alexander: Did you ever have any idea that we would wind up someplace 30+ years working together in the same place?

Pat Johnson: Wow, not at all. But, you know, starting out here with everybody in the neighborhood who worked out here, just getting out here was fantastic and so much fun. I mean, you could go to the corner and hitch a ride from anybody that was coming out this way from uptown.

Mike Alexander: The first position I had was in phlebotomy when phlebotomy originated at the National Institutes of Health. And phlebotomy consisted of the taking of specimens and what I did was I returned specimens from the units to the labs. And I remember my very first day I got stuck on the mental health ward and then on the mental health ward you could get in, but you couldn’t get out.

Pat Johnson: And they was trying to keep you in there.

Mike Alexander: And they were trying to keep me because when I asked the young lady I was like “Look, I’m stuck, the door won’t open.” She said, “It won’t open for a reason. Why are you here?” And I had to explain to her that I was new because back in those days, no one ever wore ID.

Pat Johnson: What year was that?

Mike Alexander: That was in 1979, which was kind of like a long time ago and it also brings back memories of pre-9/11 how open a campus this was. Do you ever remember how beautiful and how much green space we had on this campus?

Pat Johnson: I know, wasn’t that nice? I started in 1975, that was right out of high school and yeah, I do remember when we used to go out to lunch and we could just sit all on the grass and eat your lunch at the little picnic benches that they had. 

Mike Alexander: My how things have changed.

Pat Johnson: Yo.

Mike Alexander: And do you remember when they used to have an Employee Appreciation Day up by Building 38?

Pat Johnson: Exactly.

Mike Alexander: Which was like…it was like a picnic…

Pat Johnson: It was like a little carnival.

Mike Alexander: It was like a carnival.

Pat Johnson: It’s grown, all the development. Yeah, I think in the last 10-15 years I think it’s been the most buildings built, the most buildings built and developed out here in almost the 40 years I’ve been out here.

Mike Alexander: And Christmastime is a little different because we hark back to the memories of when we used to have Christmas parties at night, when…

Pat Johnson: Or when they used to be able to have punch, party punch…

Mike Alexander: Yes.

Pat Johnson: …that’s no longer available here on the campus.

Mike Alexander: Back in the day, a long time ago.

This page last reviewed on February 27, 2023