Enhanced Training Will Help Workforce ‘Mirror’ Patient Population

John H. Stewart IV, MD, MBA, Presidential Scholar and Professor of Surgery, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago

John H. Stewart IV, MD, MBA, Presidential Scholar and Professor of Surgery, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago

As patient advocate groups, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and many others clamor for better minority patient representation in clinical trials, there’s one important tool we might be overlooking, says John H. Stewart IV, MD, MBA, Presidential Scholar and professor of surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

“We need to make sure we begin to intensify potential clinical trialists early in their careers, making sure that we have some intentionality around diversity [and] opportunities for career advancement in clinical trials,” notes Stewart, who also is associate director for clinical sciences with the university health system’s Cancer Center, a veteran principal investigator, and a clinical trial thought leader. He received the 2013 National Cancer Institute Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award.

“There’s a lot about workforce training that’s important,” Stewart says. Obviously, there’s the general body of knowledge necessary to have with respect to conducting a clinical trial. “There are some people who want to investigate clinical trials, all of that is really important,” he notes. However, “if we really get down to one of the important issues around clinical trials, which is equity and participation, you have to have a workforce that mirrors the population.” He’s calling for new kinds of training in clinical trials from a diverse population of physicians, explaining “it’s going to be ever more important as the demographic of the country changes.”

However, the industry tent isn’t likely to widen unless the clinical trial enterprise finds new ways to alert students and others about working in the field and provide them career paths, Stewart says. Active in clinical trials since the late 1990s, he is a strong advocate of their important role in the healthcare system.

Related: ACRP Partners in Workforce Advancement

Organizations employing clinical research professionals of all types agree – the first step in creating a diverse and sustainable talent pool is to ensure that healthcare and life sciences students are aware of clinical research as a career option. And that is exactly what ACRP’s new Partners in Workforce Advancement initiative is all about.

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A trial “not only improves the care for patients, it allows me and my partners to have access to therapies that they might otherwise have access to,” Stewart says. Then there’s the “halo” effect for the medical center: “Most people believe that if you’re doing clinical trials, you’re at the cutting edge of therapy, so they’re going to come to you when they’re sick,” he adds.

Author: Michael Causey