The Urgency of Diversity

Clinical Researcher—August 2020 (Volume 34, Issue 7)


Jim Kremidas


The clinical trials industry has struggled with finding effective ways to advance diversity in its participant population for decades. While there are glimmers of improvement here and there, it has remained a stubborn challenge, and even optimists don’t claim we are on the verge of solving it in a significant way. However, I don’t need to tell you how important it is for clinical trials to better represent the people the medications, treatments, and devices are designed to help

ACRP and its members applaud efforts to promote diversity in patient populations, but we also believe our industry is overlooking an important issue if we fail to address the relative lack of diversity in the clinical trials workforce itself. We all know a high percentage of first-time clinical trial participants learned about an opportunity from a physician or other healthcare worker. It stands to reason that a clinical research workforce that is more representative of all patient populations would be an effective way to promote diversity in those who choose to participate in trials.

In the rest of this column, I’ll highlight some of the ACRP initiatives that aim to change the face of the clinical trials workforce in urgent and progressive ways.

Find Your Element

Earlier this year, ACRP’s Partners in Workforce Advancement (PWA) launched “Find Your Element”—a digital advertising campaign to raise awareness of the clinical research profession among a diverse population of college students. The PWA is a multi-stakeholder collaborative initiative with goals for growing a diverse clinical research workforce, setting and supporting standards for workforce competence, and supporting site sustainability of research sites.

The workforce outreach campaign was piloted at several colleges and universities in the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina and in Miami, Fla. It aimed to expand awareness of clinical research as a profession among nearly 400,000 college students in the pilot phase alone, and engaged at least 50,000 students directly in one form or another.

Featuring advertising messages in both English and Spanish, the campaign highlights key reasons students from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds can “find their element” in clinical research.

While we don’t yet have hard metrics, I can tell you we’ve been very encouraged by the campaign’s progress on an anecdotal level. In fact, in June we expanded the initiative to three new major U.S. markets: Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Greater Houston, and New Hampshire (including Boston).

The Bigger Picture

I’m very excited about the PWA and ACRP’s opportunity to help bring together some of the most important people and institutions in clinical research to tackle such critical issues as advancing diversity in the profession and raising the quality of clinical trials. In early June, representatives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, Society for Clinical Research Sites, and the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation joined together as the PWA Executive Steering Council.

ACRP’s PWA now includes more than 25 organizations aligned with ACRP’s mission and working to improve clinical trial quality and outcomes for patients by focusing where others have not—on workforce planning, development, and assessment.

The Partners in Workforce Advancement Executive Steering Council includes:

  • Leigh Burgess, Vice President for Research Operations, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, ACRP’s Elite Partner in Workforce Advancement
  • David Burrow, PharmD, JD, Director, Office of Scientific Investigations, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Kenneth A. Getz, Founder and Board Chair, Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation
  • Michael G. Kurilla, MD, PhD, Director, Division of Clinical Innovation, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health
  • Allyson Small, Chief Operating Officer, Society for Clinical Research Sites

All That’s Missing is More of You

As always, I encourage you as an ACRP member to become a bigger part of our industry by volunteering and sharing your knowledge. If you’d like to learn how to contribute, or have any thoughts about ACRP’s mission and activities, please reach out to me at

Jim Kremidas is Executive Director of ACRP.