Distinguished alumnus seeks cure at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
For years, Dean Follmann’s work has been focused on the study of infectious diseases and clinical trials that evaluate therapies. Most recently, it has put him on the front lines in the quest to find a cure for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Follmann grew up in Udina, Illinois, on the outskirts of Elgin, and graduated from Elgin Community College in 1977 with an associate degree in psychology. He transferred to Northern Illinois University, earning Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and psychology and a Master of Science degree in statistics. Later, Follmann earned a PhD in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pennsylvania.
Follmann's career started at the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank for the U.S. Navy, where he worked on weapons systems reliability, logistics, and manpower planning. At the National Institutes of Health, he studied cardiovascular disease and led an infectious diseases and immunology group.
“With a degree in statistics you can work in a wide variety of areas,” Follmann said. “I was drawn to the field of health because I liked science and found infectious diseases and immunology fascinating.”
Focus on Improving Human Health
Follmann specializes in the design and analysis of clinical trials that improve human health as the assistant director for biostatistics at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where Anthony Fauci, MD, serves as the director. Follmann and his team have been involved in efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including early treatments, preventative drugs, and trials for antiviral medicines and vaccines.
From Education to Opportunities
From studying in a classroom at a community college to researching one of the most peculiar infectious diseases in world history, Follmann is grateful for the education he received at ECC.
“ECC had a large impact on my career and life. ECC opened me up to the idea that I could continue on with learning and see how far it would take me—and it took me very far.”
As the ECC Foundation’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Follmann believes in the value of education.
“I think a good education is the best insurance policy for uncertain times as it provides you an advantage and opportunities, no matter what the future brings,” he said.
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