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While many voices are in agreement that the drive for diversity is both necessary and achievable—the question still remains: How do we actually start creating those meaningful conversations?
While neither the lack of diversity in clinical research nor the need for patient centricity is new, recently, the clinical research community has been more determined than ever to ensure that we take steps now to increase both in the most impactful, effective way possible. But while many voices are in agreement that this drive is necessary—and, indeed, achievable—questions still remain, such as: How do we actually start creating those meaningful conversations?
In the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread, Leland Allen, MD, of St. Vincent’s Ascension, rapidly enrolled more than 200 diverse (including Black and Latino) patients in a coronavirus trial. What is important about this? He did this in Birmingham, Alabama…right in the vicinity of the infamous Tuskegee trials that are often implicated as the very catalyst that drove a destructive wedge between the Black community and researchers that has persisted for decades.
The secret? Trust. As a respected, connected member of the Birmingham community, Dr. Allen has invested time and effort in building a solid, authentic foundation of trust within the area. When he teamed with Elligo Health Research, a healthcare-enabling organization that connects patients with clinical research through their trusted care providers, patients had very little hesitation participating in a trial for COVID-19 research.
“There is nothing more important in the doctor and patient relationship than trust,” says Dr. Allen. “And that’s not just in the context of clinical trials. It’s in everything we do. If a patient or the patient’s family doesn’t trust the provider, or they don’t trust the information from the provider, they’re never going to ‘buy in’ to the treatment or medical advice.”
Building trust takes time, patience, and the willingness to be humble and open. But there are no shortcuts if researchers truly want to be part of the change that will ultimately increase diversity in clinical research in a way that is sustaining and authentic. Building trust includes:
Building trust not only will help facilitate increased trial diversity, but in the process of working to establish that trust, it will organically create patient-centric relationships—and patient-centric trials—at the same time in a very authentic, collaborative way. Ultimately, this will pay off by paving the way to a more connected, healthier global community across a diverse range of populations.
Faith Holmes, MD is the Medical Director, VP of Medical Affairs, at Elligo Health Research