NIH Turns 80, Shares FDR’s Timeless Message
October 31, 2020, marked an important milestone in American public health: the 80th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dedication (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/10/29/nih-at-80-sharing-a-timeless-message-from-president-roosevelt/) of the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD.
“We cannot be a strong nation unless we are a healthy nation. And so, we must recruit not only men and materials, but also knowledge and science in the service of national strength,” Roosevelt said (https://youtu.be/UrVZblIYljo) in his speech on the steps of NIH in 1940.
“These words from our 32nd president are especially worth revisiting for their enduring wisdom during a time of national crisis,” Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH director, said (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/10/29/nih-at-80-sharing-a-timeless-message-from-president-roosevelt/). As World War II raged overseas, Roosevelt’s actions ensured that the United States combatted the threat of global infectious diseases.
“In the midst of another national crisis—the COVID-19 pandemic—a similar vision is inspiring the work of NIH,” Collins said (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/10/29/nih-at-80-sharing-a-timeless-message-from-president-roosevelt/). “With the aim of defending the health of all populations, we are supporting science to understand the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines for this disease that has already killed more than 225,000 Americans and infected more than 8.6 million.”
NIH’s strategic plan for researching COVID-19 includes (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/nih-announces-research-strategy-for-covid-19):
- Conducting studies to characterize and better understand how COVID-19 causes infection and disease
- Developing rapid, accurate diagnostics to identify, isolate, and track COVID-19 diagnoses
- Characterizing and testing potential treatments for COVID-19
- Developing safe and effective vaccines to protect individuals from infection and prevent future outbreaks
The plan led to a phase III trial (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/promising-interim-results-clinical-trial-nih-moderna-covid-19-vaccine) for a coronavirus vaccine and research to enhance testing (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-expands-research-improve-covid-19-testing-among-underserved-vulnerable-populations) for vulnerable patient populations, among other advancements (https://search.nih.gov/search/docs?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=nih&dc=565&query=covid&commit=Go).
“I voice for America and for the stricken world, our hopes, our prayers, our faith, in the power of man’s humanity to man,” Roosevelt said (https://youtu.be/UrVZblIYljo).
And Collins agreed. “Our science—and our humanity—will get us through this pandemic and show the path forward to brighter days ahead,” he said (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/10/29/nih-at-80-sharing-a-timeless-message-from-president-roosevelt/).