Diversity in clinical trials starts with building trust, experts say

Even with the recent awareness that clinical trials often lack the diversity that would make them representative, women and people of color remain underrepresented in studies. The work of bringing diversity to research is complex, and several experts gathered at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday to discuss potential strategies to make progress, starting with ways to build trust among the communities that have a history of being mistreated or exploited by the scientific community. Here are some of their big ideas.

Take the time to build trust

“What it’s going to take is to continue to develop the level of trust, it’s to continue to break down barriers,” said Fabian Sandoval, president and CEO of the Emerson Clinical Research Institute, which involves community clinics in trials with the goal of diversifying clinical research. “It’s for us physicians to take off our lab coats, take off the bow tie, and talk normal to people.”

Doing so, he said, requires a currency that is very scarce in health care: time. Doctors and researchers working on clinical trials need to invest time to build direct relationships with their patients, remind them that they are at liberty to quit the trial at any time (which could paradoxically help to increase retention), and still be cared for as patients.

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