Conversations and healthy debate about issues facing our industry and the health care system are critical to addressing some of today’s challenges and opportunities. The Catalyst welcomes guest contributors, including patients, stakeholders, innovators and others, to share their perspectives and point of view.
Today, we are pleased to welcome a guest post from Jim Kremidas, Executive Director, Association of Clinical Research Professionals.
We have a talented clinical trial workforce dedicated to advancing biopharmaceutical research and development. They’ve proven their stunning capabilities by making phenomenal progress toward not just one, but several safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in a matter of months. However, COVID-19 has shined a light on a decades-long problem: patients from diverse backgrounds are underrepresented and understudied in clinical research. One solution is to hire a more diverse clinical trial workforce. Minority patients tend to feel more trust toward minority health care providers. By increasing minority staff at investigator sites, we could attract more minority patients for trials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black communities are more than twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as white communities. Despite this staggering number, many companies conducting clinical vaccine trials struggled early on to ensure a minority presence. Clinical trials must better represent the entire patient population. It’s not just a moral question, though of course that is a major element. From a scientific perspective, a more diverse patient population will enhance the clinical trials, making the data stronger and more relevant.
We need to widen the pipeline of new talent to achieve that more diverse workforce. This is particularly critical at investigator sites in part because most people learn about a clinical trial from their health care practitioner, and studies show minority patients have better relationships with minority health care providers. More minority staff at investigator sites could mean greater participation by more minority patients in new trials.
In an effort to put this belief in action, the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) Partners in Workforce Advancement (PWA) launched a new outreach campaign designed to raise awareness of clinical research as a career option among minority college students called the “Find Your Element” campaign. It began in February 2020 in Miami and the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina, and soon expanded to Atlanta, Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in November 2020. Its goal is to help make investigator site staff and study participants more representative of the patient population. The pilot campaign will reach nearly 400,000 students currently enrolled in healthcare and life sciences programs at colleges and universities across those markets.
ACRP’s PWA is a multi-stakeholder, collaborative initiative to grow and diversify the clinical research workforce and set and support standards for workforce competence. PWA membership includes more than 30 organizations representing sponsors, contract research organizations, sites, regulatory agencies, academic institutions, suppliers and more. As of November 2020, the campaign has reached more than 22 million people and generated more than 134,000 visits to the campaign website where students can learn about the clinical research profession.
Additionally, we are proud to support PhRMA’s efforts in this space, in particular their recently released clinical trial diversity principles. Together, let’s ensure our clinical trial workforce—and, in turn, the people who participate in clinical trials—truly reflect the powerful diversity of our nation.