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Advancing Science for Global Health
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Home > Global Health Matters Jan/Feb 2023 > Goodbye director, hello emeritus Print

Goodbye as director, hello as emeritus

January/ February 2023 | Volume 22 Number 1

The photograph shows a headshot of Dr. Roger I. Glass, wearing a black suit, blue shirt, patterned tie and glasses.Photo credit: Fogarty International CenterDr. Roger I. Glass, senior scientist emeritus and former director of Fogarty International Center.

By Dr. Roger I. Glass

This position for the past 17 years has been a love affair: A love affair with the science, a love affair with the mission, a love affair with the people on this team and with our trainees in the field. When I was first asked to take on this role, I was hesitant and, for the first three months, I wasn't sure whether I was suited for the position and whether I was going to stay. Very quickly I became enthusiastic about the mission and the center’s potential impact.

The foundation for all I’ve done here at Fogarty was laid at CDC, where I understood that I needed to build people. You have to engage people’s intellect in the science with a mission that is important. If you train people, the return on investment is a career. Fogarty has launched nearly 1,500 fellows and scholars into global health research careers. Many have already done amazing things and all of them will have another 20 or 30 years to grow. To me the greatest joy is to go to an international meeting and have people come up to me, and say, “I was a Fogarty trainee, and I did this.” The footprint of the thousands of people we have trained is our contribution to global health.

A pivotal moment for me was the third meeting of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative. Before then, the P.I.s (principal investigators) would ask, “What are we going to do next?” So in the third-year meeting, I looked at them and said, “Guys and gals, this is your program and it's going to run out in two years. We cannot continue to provide leadership. You have to take responsibility. We can help. We can support. We can advise, but this is yours.” After that, they formed AFREHealth, a sustainable organization. It’s one thing to start something, it’s another thing when people pick it up and carry it forward. 

Terms I’ve always thought are wonderful for Fogarty are “nimble” and “small but mighty,” because we are the smallest institute at NIH, yet we punch above our weight. We can't do what we do alone, so we’ve changed the paradigm, we’ve changed the panorama and now all the different institute directors see our dynamic, our community spirit, and they want to contribute. My vision for the world is that, in a decade or so, scientists will be more fluid in how they conduct research, and we will all work together to solve the world’s problems. We have no monopoly on good brains.

I look forward to remaining here at Fogarty as senior scientist emeritus on a regular-irregular basis. I plan to contribute as a mentor and by helping others, while addressing diversity and equity, expanding engagement in global health, and reinforcing our existing partnerships. I also want to work on challenges that remain in my own rotavirus projects. Seventeen years after we have new vaccines, only half the children in the world are vaccinated. We've done better with COVID-19 than with rotavirus, which is still the number one killer of children.

I've begun traveling again and, in these past eight months, I’ve had the chance to think about all we've done. We are better off than we’ve ever been. We have strength, we have friends, we have a rising budget—and we have a wonderful staff. Now is the best time to turn over the reins to Peter Kilmarx, who has brought so much seniority and wisdom to the institute. It’s the right moment to leave the center in his capable hands.

Updated February 13, 2023

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