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  • Sept 25, 2019

MHRI research assistant shares key takeaways from "Faster Together" diversity course

This blog was written by Ursula Kahric, research assistant at MedStar Health Research Institute. Ursula is a part of the Research Participant Recruitment Unit with the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS).


To help increase my knowledge of the field, I recently completed a course on the website Coursera called “Faster Together, Enhancing the Recruitment of Minorities in Clinical Trials” by Vanderbilt University.

This course focused specifically on how to increase minority participation in clinical trials, starting with an understanding of why there is a need for minority participation. Treatments often respond differently for different people, and this includes individuals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. If individuals from minority backgrounds are not involved in research, they won’t receive the benefits because the treatments will be tailored to only those who participate. Individuals from minority backgrounds are also often hesitant to participate in research due to the historical abuses of human research in minority populations. It is important that we stress the presence of protections included in research so participants can be aware that these abuses are not acceptable in present-day research.

To ensure participation of individuals from all backgrounds, we must focus on building relationships with community partners. This relationship can increase the likelihood of individuals from minority backgrounds being comfortable participating in research. Through building relationships with the community, we can increase knowledge on the steps and protections involved in clinical trials, along with increasing trust between the community and health care providers. Recruitment materials must also be tailored towards your audience, including simple explanations of medical terms and being reviewed by community members. Reaching out to healthcare providers about your trial could also be helpful because many individuals are comfortable with their long-term healthcare providers and more likely to be interested if their provider supports a study.

Additional attention must be put on the consent process to ensure participants from minority backgrounds are fully aware of what it means to participate in a clinical trial. Potential participants should have access to a translator or have the consent form available in their native language.  If needed, visuals should be incorporated to help explain complicated processes. In addition, the teach-back method is a useful tool to assess understanding, in which the patient explains in their own words the information explained by the health care provider.

Research needs to keep in mind that trial participants want to feel a part of the research community. Retention should be person-centered and address the unique situations of each participant that might impact their continued participation, such as providing travel vouchers or seeing patients outside of normal business hours. Providing participants with a summary at the end of the study that explains how their participation led to new scientific findings could remind them that their contribution is making a difference in the lives of others.

Not only was the course informative, inspiring fresh ideas to add to our recruitment efforts, but the methods discussed proved to validate some of the efforts our team is already implementing. Here are a few of the ideas presented in the course:

Summary chart explaining new ideas for GHUCCTS to implement as well as initiatives we already have

If we want to continue improving health for everyone, we must ensure as study recruiters that we are effectively recruiting minorities into clinical trials as well. 

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