Duke receives $2.65 million grant to support new initiative for increased diversity, access to clinical research

Duke University Health System, the Duke School of Medicine and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently received a $2.65 million grant from the Duke Endowment for an initiative titled “Changing the Face of Clinical Research at Duke Through Community Outreach and Engagement.”

The main goals of this initiative are to ensure equitable and increased access to clinical research for underrepresented populations; grow the diversity of the University’s clinical research workforce; and remove barriers to research participation, according to Susanna Naggie, associate professor of medicine and vice dean for clinical research for the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

“When clinical research studies do not recruit, enroll and retain diverse populations, there is a loss of applicability to those underrepresented groups, and this can result in health disparities,” Naggie wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “We expect to disseminate everything we learn and have the goal of leading nationally on this important topic of developing models for developing meaningful and lasting partnerships with the community in clinical research.”

Naggie is not the only contributor to this initiative. The leadership team includes faculty with appointments in diverse departments ranging from biostatistics and bioinformatics to psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“We need people with all types of lived experiences and backgrounds to participate in research so that we can be sure the research not only applies to everyone but also that people feel they can trust the research,” wrote CTSI Director Ebony Boulware. “One of the most exciting things about this grant, in my view, is the fact that we are partnering with many others from Durham and beyond to bring the vision to full fruition.”

Partnerships with community coalitions such as the Durham African American COVID-19 Taskforce, LATIN-19 and the AME Zion HEAL Partnership have been critical to this initiative, according to Nadine Barrett, director of the CTSI Center for Equity in Research. These entities form the Community Advisory Council. 

Community partners, Barrett wrote, are meant to reflect diversity across various demographics including race and ethnicity; patient and community advocates; leaders of local community clinics; faith leaders; and community based and rooted entities.

“This diversity led to invaluable insights and recommendations that shaped our proposal, informing key program activities, innovative ideas and methods to increase diverse representation in clinical research, and how to ensure that the work is continually informed by, and relevant to our community,” Barrett wrote. 

According to Barrett, the CAC ensures that the physical research site and outreach and engagement activities are fully leveraged to maximize impact by addressing lack of diversity in clinical research participation and within the research workforce. They also have a pulse on community priorities and needs, and will serve as partners to ensure CTSI programs have high impact by being mutually beneficial to the local Durham community. 

The CAC emphasizes work that builds on community engagement and equity work, and will partner on several fronts to enhance and diversify the research workforce. Examples include the CTSI Equity Scholars Program with Durham Technical Community College and hiring local research staff in the Duke Office of Clinical Research to develop meaningful community and clinic-based partnerships that reflect the local community. 

“As the inaugural director of the CTSI Center for Equity in Research, it is our goal to develop and sustain an equitable, anti-racist and anti-bias research environment which includes how we apply these concepts in and across the research spectrum, the research environment, at every level of the research workforce, and as we engage our partners and collaborators,” Barrett wrote.  


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