ACRP Calls for Increased Diversity Among Clinical Researchers
The importance of diversity of patients in clinical studies cannot be overlooked, nor can the importance of diversity at the C-suite level. But, it’s equally important to have a diverse clinical research team as well.
Increasing the number of minority clinical workers is a key goal of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). Not only will this help meet the growing need for additional healthcare workers in the United States, it will also make those who conduct the trials more reflective of the broader U.S. population. And if that occurs, Jim Kremidas, executive director of ACRP told BioSpace in an interview that it will ultimately lead to ensuring the patients in clinical trials will be more representative of the U.S. population.
“Building more diverse staffs will help to build the trust needed to conduct clinical trials that are more representative of our communities, resulting in more equitable health outcomes and employment opportunities,” Kremidas, a longtime Eli Lilly employee who oversaw the enrollment of clinical trial patients, said.
It was during his time at Eli Lilly, as well as a short stint with IQVIA, that Kremidas realized there was little diversity at the clinical research sites. And that lack of diversity in researchers could be a reason why trials have not drawn a wider number of minority patients. Kremidas noted that in Miami, where there is a higher number of Hispanic physicians, it was easier to recruit more Hispanic patients.
“People tend to trust and understand other people who share the same background and culture,” he explained.
Increasing trust among minority populations is essential considering some historical abuses of trust, including the Tuskegee Syphilis study and the unauthorized use of genetic material from Henrietta Lacks to create cancer therapies.
According to ACRP statistics, less than 20% of clinical trial participants are from Black and Hispanic communities. At the same time, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans make up approximately one-third of the U.S. population. In the ongoing global pandemic, this patient population is about 2.6 times more likely to get coronavirus than white and non-Hispanic persons. Also, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these minority groups have hospitalization rate four to five times higher than Caucasian populations. African Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white and non-Hispanic persons.
That realization led to the development of ACRP’s Partners in Workforce Advancement. The program is aimed at expanding the diversity of the clinical research workforce, and to set and support standards for workforce competence. ACRP hopes to raise awareness of the opportunities in clinical research and ultimately make clinical trials more representative of the U.S. population.
“People have not focused on raising awareness of clinical researcher as a career and how to get people, including minorities, into it. It’s a great career and there are so many places people can go with it,” Kremidas said. “We want to bring more people in. These are good-paying positions that begin at about $50,000 per year.”
The goal of the Partners in Workforce Advancement program is to boost the number of clinical researchers in order to fill a widening employment gap. With 34,000 active clinical trials in the U.S. at any one time, growth in clinical research employment averages about 9% per year, well below the estimated 12% annual growth in clinical trial activities. And that gap is compounded year after year, Kremidas added. The program will raise awareness of clinical research as a career.
“Kids know doctors and scientists, but they don’t know exactly what clinical researchers do – they don’t get that you’re in a clinical practice dealing with clinical patients,” he said. “We need to grow the workforce. We want to let these young people of all races know this is a good opportunity as a career.”