Until recently, most of my work on health equity was as part of a team on the ground. We reached out to members of the minority community, encouraging them to take advantage of available healthcare services, educating them about the importance of clinical trials, and enrolling them in research studies, when appropriate.
Then, I was invited to advance health equity through an entirely different, truly innovative approach as a board member of Clinical Research Pathways.
A nonprofit organization, Clinical Research Pathways works to improve health and well-being for all by increasing access and advancing treatments. Its signature program, Training Minority Clinical Teams: Getting New Quality Medicines to All Americans, seeks to address a longstanding inequity—the underrepresentation of minority populations in clinical trials. What sets the program apart is its focus on the crucial role of the physician investigator.
A potential game changer
We know, from research, that patients who have a good relationship with their doctor are more likely to take advice, including recommendations to participate in clinical trials. We also know that, when the quality of care is equivalent, patients prefer to be the same race or ethnicity as their healthcare providers.
In other words, more minority patients might participate in clinical trials if a trusted minority physician made that recommendation. For that to happen, more minority physicians must gain experience as clinical investigators and be recruited to conduct clinical trials.
That’s where Clinical Research Pathways comes in—and why its program has the potential to be a game changer.
A strategic partnership
As its name indicates, the Clinical Research Pathways program will train minority clinical teams to conduct and help increase participation in research. Clinical Research Pathways is funding the program, and Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta is recruiting, training, and mentoring minority physicians as clinical investigators.
Its national reputation as a leader in the creation and advancement of health equity and as a culturally competent community partner makes MSM an ideal choice for this program. In addition, its Community Physicians’ Network presents significant opportunities to recruit both minority physicians and patients.
I have served on the Community Advisory Board of the Clinical Research Center at MSM and, in that capacity, helped spread the word about the benefits of participating in clinical trials. I’ve also seen firsthand how MSM has long embraced the vision to include minorities in clinical research and help reduce and eliminate the disparities that affect minority communities.
In choosing MSM instead of starting from scratch, Clinical Research Pathways has partnered with an organization where much of the work has already been done. The challenge, then, is to expand and advance those efforts by building relationships—philanthropic and otherwise—with individuals who agree that health equity cannot be achieved unless we change the makeup of clinical trials. We cannot develop medicines for all if we don’t involve representatives of all populations in clinical research.
Tapping the potential of board members and supporters
Just as it did in selecting a program partner, Clinical Research Pathways has taken a strategic approach to governance. All board members share a commitment to health equity. All also bring different strengths and experience and are passionate about putting them to work to achieve our common goal.
I am proud and honored to be an ambassador for this organization—to strengthen ties with cultural brokers who can act as a bridge between the scientific and minority communities to help build critical support for Clinical Research Pathways and our signature diversity effort. I also will be introducing Clinical Research Pathways to a rainbow coalition of friends and allies who share our vision of health equity for all populations.
Time and again I’ve seen what we can accomplish when we coalesce around a cause that’s bigger than any of us as individuals. Certainly that’s the case for equitable representation in clinical trials. Without it, the cures of the future will be for some instead of all.
I invite you to join me in supporting Clinical Research Pathways and our innovative work to advance health equity.
The Rev. Dr. Jason E. Owen, S.T.D., is the founder, chief apostle, and international presiding bishop of Bible Deliverance Ministries, Inc., and the incoming board chair of Clinical Research Pathways.