- Mistrust of the medical world by communities of color is an issue when it comes to racial disparities within cancer care, and panelists at our recent ‘Close the Gap’ Conference came together to discuss possible solutions.
- Diversity in clinical trials can help create the best cancer treatments for racial minorities, but mistrust in the medical world can lead to less diversity in participation. The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s (CDER’s) Drug Trials Snapshots Summary Report for 2020 concluded that only eight percent of the total 32,000 patients who participated in the CDER’s clinical trials for the newest drug approvals of 2020 were Black or African American.
- Panelists at our conference proposed earlier training for medical professionals to address past wrongdoings, institutional racism, cultural biases and systemic issues. They also suggested prioritizing diversity within the healthcare workforce.
Communities of color have reason to distrust the medical world. Take the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, for example. Otherwise known as the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” this not-so-distant ‘study’ ran from 1932 and only ended 40 years later with more than 600 African-American men in Alabama enrolled by the U.S. Health Service. The tragedy was that these men were never told what the study was truly about or given proper treatment to cure the disease.Read More
Dr. Luther Clarke, deputy chief patient officer at Merck, said that collaborating with trusted voices in communities to increase awareness of the importance of clinical trials can help build that trust.
“When one participates in the research, you also participate in the development of healthcare solutions that lead to improved outcomes and decrease in inequities,” Dr. Clarke explained. “So it is important that there be representation so that we’re comfortable that treatments are not only effective and safe in all the populations that will be using them, but there is comfort and confidence in new therapies.”
Dr. Marilyn Fraser, CEO at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, added that gaining trust requires acknowledgement of past wrongdoings, institutional racism, cultural biases and systemic issues, and early, intentional training for people entering the medical world can help with that. She also said that increasing the number of people of color and the diversity of nationalities and ethnicities within heath care professions can help with this issue.
“Diversity helps to bring to the forefront equity, and it brings to the forefront some of the challenges that we may have and that we can come together to try to tease those out,” she said.
Dr. Brandon Blue, an oncologist from Moffitt Cancer Center, said training is important, but it probably isn’t enough since it could take a whole generation to actually see improvements. He proposed financial incentives like a ‘health disparities report card’ of sorts to hold medical institutions accountable and, hopefully, give these underserved communities more concrete reasons to trust medical professionals.
“A lot of institutions are actually funded by the people who are paying taxes,” he said. “So, if you know that you are in the south side of Chicago, and you know that you have a ‘F’ for your ‘how you treat black people’ card, you know that you need to change something, right, because that’s gonna lose some of your funding.”