Clinical trials can open doors to promising new treatments for patients with chronic or serious medical conditions. Yet for many segments of the public—including minorities, women, and the elderly—these doors remain closed because patients are either unaware of trials or are not invited to participate.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration reports that African Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population but only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. Latinos represent 16 percent of the population but only 1 percent of clinical trial participants.

At best, this underrepresentation raises questions about the relevancy of the research results. At worst, the new medicines can prove ineffective for these populations, increasing health disparities.

Clinical Research Pathways and Morehouse School of Medicine in Georgia are tackling these issues through an innovative new program, Training Minority Clinical Teams: Getting New Quality Medicines to All Americans. The program recognizes—and reduces—the obstacles that discourage minorities from participating in clinical trials and sharing in the resulting potential health benefits.

For example, studies show that:

  • When the quality of care is equivalent, minority patients prefer healthcare providers of the same ethnicity.
  • Healthcare providers play a key role in influencing patient decisions on participating in clinical trials.
  • Minority physicians typically are not asked to serve as clinical investigators.

The Clinical Research Pathways project reduces these barriers by training and mentoring minority physicians to serve as clinical investigators and by relying on these physician investigators to enroll patients at the point of care.

With its strong physician network, its leadership in advancing health equity, and its reputation as a trusted, culturally competent community partner, Morehouse School of Medicine is the ideal choice to head this effort and, eventually, help expand it nationwide.

Watch for more details about the project.

Marjorie A. Speers, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Clinical Research Pathways