How to Recruit Diverse Patient Populations in Clinical Research (PREVIEW)

Dr. Fabian Sandoval of the Emerson Clinical Research Institute shares his firsthand experiences and learnings on the topic of patient diversity in clinical research, including the importance of sharing both his successes and failures and important considerations for sites that want to improve the diversity of their patient populations.


episode notes:


Fabian, tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience.

I’m Colombian, but I was raised in northern Virginia. I got a bilingual medical training and moved on to research after my residency. I soon realized I wasn’t keen on the monotony of regular medical practice. I ended up moving into clinical trials and research and have been in the industry ever since.

You’re a key member of the SCRS’s Diversity Awareness Program. Can you tell us about your history with the program?

SCRS started this program because there was a need and continues to be a need to not just raise awareness, but to do something about the lack of diverse populations that participate in clinical trials. When I heard about the idea for SCRS to focus on improving diversity, I knew that I had to be involved.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from your participation in SCRS’s Diversity Awareness Program?

When it comes to pharma sponsors of all sizes and CROs, there was a lack of awareness of the issue of diversity. Many people I spoke to did not know about the FDASIA (Safety and Innovation Act) Section 907, which states the importance of diversity in clinical research. I knew it was important to increase awareness of this policy, even among sponsors who I wasn’t working with, because I recognized its importance and potential to change clinical trials.

What can happen when sites are greedy with their information or don’t share amongst themselves the strategies they’ve utilized to improve diversity?

There’s no point in having “gold nuggets” of information if they aren’t shared. The reason we do clinical trials is to improve medicine and one day we or someone we care about may need that drug. So if we’re successful at a task, we need to share what we’ve learned so other people can take something away from our successes and our failures. Passing on those gold nuggets is critical to improving our work overall.

Can you tell us a little bit about the FDA Snapshots website?

This website tells you what drug was recently approved and breaks down the demographics of the participants. What we can take away from this information is that if the medication was not tested on a diverse population, it may not work on every single person. And if it doesn’t work, we haven’t done our due diligence or been good scientists. This is useful because it gives us an idea of which populations we need to do a better job at targeting next time around.

What can other sites do to improve the diversity of the populations they’re enrolling?

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How can sites adapt during COVID-19 to ensure they’re still making their presence known in their communities?

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What does it really mean to have culturally competent staff at your site?

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What considerations should sites keep in mind when developing effective communications or marketing strategy to reach the patients in their communities?

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Tell us about your site and the successful (or unsuccessful) strategies you’ve implemented to make sure your patients are representative of your community.

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Tell everybody a little bit about your advocacy for health literacy and your TV show.

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Fabian Sandoval, MD

Dr. Fabian Sandoval, CEO & Research Director, has over 25 years of bench to bedside research experience. His diversified research career has been in academia, healthcare systems and the public sector. He received his Bachelors of Science in molecular and cellular biology from Marymount University, and his Doctorate of Medicine from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, School of Medicine. He
Before opening the doors to Emerson Clinical Research Institute (ECRI) Dr. Sandoval’s research activities have included bench research at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) where he focused his work on Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and Cretzfelt-Jakob Disease. At the NIHs’ Clinical Center conducting research in the outpatient Oncology unit, followed by his successful support of an NIH RO1 grant on preventing epilepsy in post-traumatic brain injury patients in adults and children, simultaneously run at the Washington Hospital Center, and Children’s National Medical Center.


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