Voices of the NIH Community

“We are a team”

Diane Baker talks to her husband Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, about approaching their NIH work as a partnership. They reflect on some of the memorable patients they have met along the way.


Francis Collins: Diane, you and I went on a famous trip with three patients, kids with cancer.  The famous guitarist for U2, Edge, was an advocate for cancer research and he sent a note that U2 was doing a concert in Baltimore.  I said, “Great.  Can I bring a few of your fans along who happen to be patients, kids with cancer?”  And he loved the idea.  So we rode up there with those three wonderful young people and he was wonderful with them.  He brought them up on stage, he let them strap on his guitar while the place was still filling up, strum a few chords.  I will never forget that. 

And all three of those young people are gone now.  None of them survived.  But what a gift to be part of that special day for them.  That kind of experience, I don’t think would just happen if you and I were not a team.  For me to be able to have the personal side, the part that makes this feel like a family place and not just an institution, depends so heavily on you.  So what’s that like for you?

Diane Baker: Hmm.  I remember when you were being considered for this position and the conversations we had, just the two of us, about what would this mean?  What would it be asking of you?  What would it be asking of us, of our family?  And I think we both agreed that if we were going to take it on, we would take it on as a partnership.  It’s actually been great because NIH is such a community – there are so many walks, runs, auctions, farmer’s markets, and Bike to Work Day, and so many events that you and I try to participate in to let people know that we see a commitment to this place as one that involves not just the person, but their whole family.

Francis Collins: Yeah, not just the brain but their heart.

Diane Baker: Yeah.  And I think that you and I are both committed to that too.

Francis Collins: Oh yeah.  And we are a team.  And I don’t know how we could really make this possible without that.  I can’t imagine.

Diane Baker: I think we have hit this point in our lives where really all the factors have come together to allow us to be a team in a very full way.

Francis Collins: Yeah.  And what a gift that is.

This page last reviewed on February 27, 2023