Put Some Muscle Where Your Mouth Is

Paul Evans, PhD, President and CEO, Velocity Clinical Research

Clinical Researcher—November 2020 (Volume 34, Issue 9)


Paul Evans, PhD


It is encouraging to see and hear how much attention has been devoted to promoting diversity in the clinical trial patient population and workforce by ACRP, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and others across the industry in recent months. You cannot even begin to fix a problem until you identify it. Addressing a challenge of this magnitude requires rigorous self-examination, determination, and an openness to trying new ideas.

As we all know, clinical trials have a decidedly mixed history when it comes to interactions with minority communities. Tuskegee. Henrietta Lacks. These and other examples of gross misconduct and moral bankruptcy have damaged the view of clinical trials with many minority populations. It is a legacy we must confront, even as we find ways to reassure potential patients that these violations of basic human decency, not to mention good science, will not be tolerated again.

However, ACRP and others must now take the next step forward if we want to be true to our mission to advance the development of the clinical trial workforce. If talk and good intentions are the skeleton, meaningful actions are the muscle that will translate into systemic, and frankly long overdue, change.

Part of our rigorous self-examination as an industry must begin with the fact that personnel at sites are overwhelmingly white and generally based in areas where more non-minorities live and work.

Of course, most site staff are not overtly prejudiced, but we all have unconscious biases which manifest in many ways and can deter minorities even when the white practitioner thought he or she was being positive and inclusive.

It’s time for site leaders and others to take proactive steps to introduce more diversity in their own workforce if they want to recruit more minorities as patients.

I was heartened by a recent segment of ACRPtv focusing on promoting diversity in the clinical trial workforce and patient populations. In the segment, featuring Lori Abrams, Executive Director of Patient Advocacy and Diversity at WCG, and Steve Smith, President of Patient Advocacy at WCG, each offered innovative, action-oriented ideas that could help the clinical trial industry finally begin to make significant progress in its efforts to broaden the patient population.

Another recent ACRPtv segment focused on the exciting work of Danielle Coe, founder of a new organization called Black Women in Clinical Research. Coe and colleagues have already seen positive impacts from their efforts to reach out and network with a wider population.

I think we can all agree that the clinical trial industry will benefit from the inclusion of more minorities in its workforce and patient populations.

Now is the time to put some serious muscle behind that well-meaning talk.

Paul Evans, PhD, is President and CEO of Velocity Clinical Research, and Chair of the Association Board of Trustees for ACRP in 2020.