Diversity in Clinical Trials: including BIPOC clinicians to keep patients safe

Diversity team crema

Diverse representation in clinical trials is a problem around the world. Clinical trials are needed to define the safety and efficacy of new therapies for patients. However, people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds may respond differently to the same drugs. That’s why it is so important to have a diverse racial and ethnic patient population. Unfortunately, there is currently significant under-representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) participants due to multiple barriers including mistrust, lack of access as described by Sheba George and colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health. FDA data [1]reveals that while African Americans make up 12% of the US population, they make up only 5% of clinical trial participants. Hispanics account for 16% of the population but only 1% of clinical trial participants. The disparity lies not only in the participation of BIPOC patients but in the lack of BIPOC physicians and clinician-researchers[2]. Most initiatives to increase diversity in clinical trials are focused on participants, however, BIPOC patients often seek healthcare from BIPOC physicians and clinicians[3]. With a lack of racial and ethnic diversity among the researchers, we are missing this vital connection to these patients.

To address this discordance in clinical trials, Dompé continuously tries to improve site selection, select sites in underrepresented areas and diverse KOLs and improve feasibilities that are inherently bias. With this in mind, we created a cross-functional Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) team consisting of Katrina Journey, Sr. Director of Commercial Strategy, Beth Butler, Sr. Clinical Affairs Manager, Bianca Baker Ph.D., Director of Medical and Clinical Affairs, Rutvi Doshi OD, FAAO, Regional Manager, and Danielle Flannery, Associate Director of Brand Marketing. Launched in June of 2020, our team developed an initiative focused on increasing representation across research, our vendors, physicians/key opinion leaders, and other partners. “It’s been great to be a part of a company that not only recognizes the importance of diversity in helping the company achieve its vision but that also is willing to give time and resources to help make a change,” Katrina Journey says.

For our first step in this initiative, Dompé is partnering with Black EyeCare Perspective (BEP). Founded by optometrists Drs. Adam Ramsey and Darryl Glover, BEP was designed and created to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between African Americans and the eye care industry. Along with Drs. Essence Johnson (Chief Visionary Officer) and Jacobi Cleaver (Director of Program Management), BEP is redefining the color of the eye care industry 1% at a time by creating a pipeline for Black students into optometry. Dompé is starting a conversation with their membership to explain how clinical trials work and connect them to resources to get started. “Diversity in healthcare is not limited to just gender, race, and sexual orientation, but inclusive to how one practices, where one practices, and who we provide care to. Targeted minority recruitment is essential to increasing representation in all areas of healthcare be it, patients or practitioners, in addition to providing opportunities to raise awareness and educate. It is our goal to inform our Black doctors on how they can get started with Clinical Trials and also educate and recruit patients that better represent the US population for better health research and outcomes, ” says Dr. Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, Chief Visionary Officer at BEP.

[1] According to “The Society for Women’s Health Research United States Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health. Dialogues on diversifying clinical trials: successful strategies for engaging women and minorities in clinical trials; 2011”. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/ScienceResearch/SpecialTopics/WomensHealthResearch/UCM334959.pdf.

[2] According to https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/workforce/interactive-data/figure-18-percentage-all-active-physicians-race/ethnicity-2018

[3] According to “George, S., Duran, N., & Norris, K. (2014). A Systematic Review of Barriers and Facilitators to Minority Research Participation Among African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. American Journal of Public Health, 104, e16–e31 doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301706 “recruit patients that better represent the US population for better health research and outcomes, ” says Dr. Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, Chief Visionary Officer at BEP.