Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Program
The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, the National Medical Fellowships, and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recently announced the first group of 52 physicians selected for its Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Program.
The 52 physicians selected by an independent selection committee are an accomplished group working at a broad range of health-care institutions in 22 states across the United States. The physicians include 34 women and 18 men who represent a diverse cross section of races and ethnicities and bring a widely varied perspective and range of experiences to the program, as well as to their therapeutic focus areas of cancer (hematologic or solid tumors), immunologic disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.
The program was launched to address the lack of diversity in clinical trials in the United States, where reports have indicated that nearly 80% of patients taking part in clinical trials are White.
Through the Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Program, participants will be trained as world-class clinical research scientists with additional knowledge, skills, and competencies in effective community outreach and engagement. This new generation of physician investigators will have the potential to transform the clinical research landscape by conducting clinical trials designed with the goal of increasing the diversity of their participants.
A Unique Program Focused on Long-Term Outcomes
“The ultimate aim of this program is to improve public health through the development of therapeutics for all populations,” said Michellene Davis, Esq, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Medical Fellowships, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minority physicians and other professional in the health-care workforce to improve access to quality health care in medically underserved communities.
“Community-oriented, equity-minded health professionals are needed more than ever to address the historical causes of mistrust in health-care systems and increase the engagement and participation of underserved populations.”— Michellene Davis, Esq
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Ms. Davis commented: “To truly bring about the change we want and need, we must accept the clarion call to eliminate systemic and structural racism that contribute to racial disparities in health care. Community-oriented, equity-minded health professionals are needed more than ever to address the historical causes of mistrust in health-care systems and increase the engagement and participation of underserved populations.”
The multidimensional program is uniquely designed to foster clinical and translational research that is community-informed, designed, and conducted. Participants receive training in evidence-based methods of community outreach and engagement. They participate in a multilevel mentorship model with established community-based principal investigators and with medical students through a major component of the program called the Clinical Investigator Pipeline Program. This clinical investigator program is an intensive summer service-learning externship that exposes promising second-year medical students who are underrepresented in medicine to the basics of clinical trials and to working in underserved community health settings to provide outreach, education, and engagement on clinical trials.
“Many aspects of the [Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Program] make it unique,” said Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health. “Its focus on helping clinical trialists become experienced in community engagement research methods is key to developing the trust necessary to realize an increase in clinical trial participation by people of color, yet we have not seen this in any other program of this kind. The program is also designed for long-term impact—engaging both practicing clinical trial physicians and diverse medical students, developing mentoring relationships that will build a pipeline of clinicians that are skilled in clinical trial diversity. All of these elements are rarely found.”
Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD
John Damonti, President of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, said that the response to the program has been overwhelming. “The number of applicants exceeded our expectations, as did the stellar credentials of the physicians who applied. In fact, we expanded the cohort to include as many of these exceptional candidates as possible.” He added that the program is a significant priority for the Foundation, which has been working for decades to improve health equity in the United States and around the world. “I could not be more pleased that we are realizing our vision for this program.”
“We are thrilled to contribute in a major way to this extraordinary program,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “This educational workshop will provide these early-career physicians with the remarkable opportunity to interact with and be mentored by leading clinical investigators, as well as leading biostatisticians and community engagement experts to learn the principles of excellent clinical trial design, and to develop the skill sets needed for building community networks. This program, along with the long-term mentorship offered to the participants, will prepare them to become independent clinical trialists and have the overarching benefit of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc)
The first cohort of scholars started their 2-year participation in October 2021 with a program orientation, followed in early November by a 6-day intensive educational workshop on clinical research.
Applications for Future Participants
Letters of intent are being accepted now through January 14, 2022, for the second cohort of clinical trial physicians. For medical students, the application period for the Clinical Investigator Pipeline Program opened on November 15, 2021, and closes on January 28, 2022. Interested applicants and others wanting to learn more may visit the program website at www.diversityinclinicaltrials.org.