Ascension’s science chief on the mission-driven work to increase clinical trial diversity

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Recognizing the lack of diversity in their clinical trials and research, St. Louis-based Ascension plans to improve in this area, and has recently made recognized advances. This “mission-driven” work has been the focus of the health system’s chief scientific officer, Frederic Massoud, who began the role in 2021.

Dr. Masudi said. Baker He was particularly involved in developing a national framework to help enable research around Ascension, including improving the representation of populations enrolled in clinical trials.

“Ascension’s mission is to take care of the poor and vulnerable,” he said. “This work is fully aligned with our long-term mission.”

The work began by measuring how the health system was performing in this area. Ascension adopted an enterprise-wide clinical trials management system that provides information about people enrolled in clinical trials across the organization.

“Taking these data together, I’m pleased to see that the populations we enroll in clinical trials by race and ethnicity more closely reflect the populations we care for, which is a good place to start,” he said. Dr. Masudi.

One example he cites is a clinical trial supporting his colleagues at Ascension DePaul Services in New Orleans. The trial focused on a clinic serving a predominantly minority population and an application of cognitive behavioral therapy to improve diabetes control.

“They hit it out of the park by enrolling individuals at DePaul,” Dr. Massudi said. “They have a very motivated and competent team. They have been working in the community for a long time and have built trust, which is a key element in engaging individuals in trials. As a result, the population enrolled in clinical trials has completely changed with respect. To race and ethnicity.”

Also, in Tulsa, Okla., Ascension Saint John Clinical Research Institute He recently won the opening Global Site Diversity Award From the Association of Clinical Research Sites, which works to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in clinical trials. Sponsored prize Syneos Health, was awarded after the institute established a program called Bridging Diversity Together. The program began in 2019 and program efforts and partnerships, including with Eastern Oklahoma National Black Nurses Association Committee and Indian Health Care Resource CenterIt resulted in a 9.2% increase in the enrollment of American Indian individuals; 6.6% enrollment increase for black individuals; and a 2.6% enrollment increase for Asian individuals.

“This is in an evolving landscape where the FDA is increasingly interested in the diversity of clinical trial participants,” said Dr. Masoudi. “This is an opportunity for us to work with sponsors in this regard and improve the overall quality of test results. Because of Ascension’s footprint and the people we serve, we can be a leader in this regard.”

Ascension, which operates care facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia, has no plans to lose its focus on making strides in this area. Dr. Massudi said the hope is that the health system can work with sponsors of clinical trials to develop more innovative and meaningful approaches to increase enrollment in trials among diverse populations. Ascension is working closely with Chief Community Impact Officer Stacey Garrett-Ray, MD, on these efforts, he said.

Still, many pieces admit that they play a role in the underlying elements of the lack of representatives, such as logistical obstacles and having to find time to schedule an appointment during work hours.

“We can work with sponsors to develop and support approaches that address logistical barriers to participation,” Dr. Massudi said. “We can also contribute to trial design with the aim of reducing the burden on participants.”

Trust is one factor given the long history of distrust among racial and ethnic minority individuals in clinical research.

“Resolving these issues of mistrust and building stronger bonds in the community is a very important part of it, and something we look forward to working with Dr. Garrett-Ray,” said Dr. Massudi.

Representation among researchers may also play a role in clinical trial participation. A recent retrospective Research Researchers from Boston Medical Center found Patients may be more willing to participate in clinical studies when research staff are of the same race or ethnicity.

“DePaul is a good example of how a medical professional who is known and trusted by the community and a research coordinator who resembles the individuals in that community can contribute to participation,” said Dr. Masoudi. “Given the history of research in underserved communities, we recognize that distrust in research is something we must overcome.”

Ascension also focuses on integrating research into clinical care, which means working with clinicians to address the priorities that matter most to their patients and to them, he said. The health system is focused on the importance of research in building strong programs and advancing the organization’s mission.

“Incentives to enhance the diversity of society engaged in research are increasing,” he added. “Doing more is the right thing to do, and in our case, it’s mission-related.”

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