For years, Elgin Community College alumnus Dean Follmann’s work has focused on the study of infectious diseases and clinical trials that evaluate therapies. This work has put him on the front lines in the quest for a cure to COVID-19.
Follmann, ECC’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni, is the Assistant Director for Biostatistics at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), specializing in the design and analysis of clinical trials that improve human health. His team has been involved in efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including early treatments, preventative drugs, and trials for antivirals and vaccines.
“We’re interested in early treatment or preventive drugs that work quickly,” Follmann said. “Those could be game-changers, as we could give the drug to the family members and contacts of a newly identified case and thus stamp out further infections.”
Follmann, who graduated from ECC in 1977 with an associate degree in psychology, went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Psychology and a Master of Science degree in Statistics. Later, Follmann earned his PhD in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University.
“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.”
Follmann believes the post-COVID-19 world will be different. “Exactly how, I’m not sure, but I think there will be greater awareness of public health and how we, as individuals, can protect ourselves,” he said. “I think a good education is the best insurance policy for uncertain times, as it provides you an advantage and provides opportunities no matter what the future brings.”