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Health Equity: Medical Research with Carol Oladele, PhD, MPH, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD & Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI

Medical experts join Washington Post Live on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to discuss efforts to provide more equitable medical research and patient care (Video: The Washington Post)
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When it comes to scientific and early-stage medical research in the United States, equity is still an issue. In fact, African Americans, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans are vastly underrepresented in research and trials. Washington Post Live will gather medical experts to examine efforts by the scientific and medical communities to change their approach through more equitable medical research, diversifying clinical trials and improving responses to patient experiences.

Click here for transcript


“We still see the data coming out of the CDC… Almost 50 percent of new cases, you know somewhere between 45 and 50 percent, are from racial and ethnic minority groups… Severity, hospitalization and mortality follows in parallel… We cannot let our guard down on this pandemic, this is not over by any stretch of the imagination.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“All funds count… We’re in another pivot in the pandemic that is worth reflecting on. From the beginning, the NIH received special appropriations... for diagnostics program that developed these tests… We also started a program for underserved populations… And we have funded at this point 85 projects that all have to be community engaged is to promote testing. We also have an important component on return to school which has happened. Now we want to test to stay in school.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“Doctor [Francis] Collins, Doctor Gary H. Gibbons from the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute and other NIH experts including Dr. Fauci and other vaccine experts… and Moderna leadership… we met every Saturday morning for about three months to monitor their progress, and we gave them advice, we didn’t tell them what to do… And Moderna listened, they paused their recruitment, they focused on targeted samples or African Americans, Latino/Hispanics, who were underrepresented in initial recruitment numbers and they reached an adequate number of participation. So 37 percent of their trial participants were from racial or ethnic minorities.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“The key is actually to have a relationship with the communities before it’s time to invite them to participate in research.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“The downward effects of racism and structural inequities in the setting of the pandemic, people… jump to the conclusion that there must be some genetic or biological reason that we’re seeing disparities instead of really focusing on these social and environmental factors.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“People of color have been systematically excluded from research for many years and yes now there’s a push to increase diversity… There’s also this lack of appreciation for those who are willing and are interested in participating yet are not asked or approached.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Carol Oladele, PhD, MPH

Provided by Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Oladele is Assistant Professor in the Section of General Internal Medicine, core faculty at the Equity Research and Innovation Center, and Center for Neuroepidemiology and Clinical Neurological Research at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Oladele’s research focuses on social determinants of cardiovascular health disparities, with specific focus on the role of nutrition, healthcare quality, food, and built environments. She has expertise in the development of dietary assessment methodologies for African descent populations. Her research aims to generate evidence to support health policies and interventions to improve cardiovascular outcomes among racial/ethnic and immigrant populations domestically and globally. Dr. Oladele’s current work examines the role of food insecurity and ultra-processed food on disparities in hypertension incidence and control.

Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD

Provided by National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable[1], M.D. is Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He oversees NIMHD’s annual budget to advance the science of minority health and health disparities research. NIMHD conducts and supports research programs to advance knowledge and understanding of health disparities, identify mechanisms to improve minority health, and develop effective interventions to reduce health disparities in community and clinical settings. NIMHD is the lead organization at NIH for planning, reviewing, coordinating, and evaluating minority health and health disparities research activities conducted by NIH. NIMHD also promotes diversity in the biomedical workforce, supports research capacity at institutions training underrepresented students and serving populations with health disparities, and promotes information dissemination through regular electronic communications, public education outreach, and scientific presentations.

Since joining NIMHD in September 2015, Dr. Pérez-Stable has been cultivating the Institute’s position on the cutting edge of the science of minority health and health disparities. Through this effort, the Institute has produced a collection of resources that guide and facilitate the conduct of research to promote health equity. These include the NIH Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan 2021-2025; the NIMHD Research Framework; the PhenX Social Determinants of Health Assessments Collection, a research toolkit; a collection of 30 science visioning Strategies to Promote the Advancement of Health Disparities Science; special journal supplements Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities and Addressing Health Disparities through the Utilization of Health Information Technology; and The Science of Health Disparities Research textbook, among other resources.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Pérez-Stable has positioned NIMHD at the forefront of the research response to COVID-19 health disparities by establishing new research programs and collaborating with other NIH institutes and centers. He also serves as co-chair for two prominent NIH-wide programs that have been established to promote health equity by reducing COVID-19 associated morbidity and mortality disparities experienced by underserved and vulnerable communities: the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities and the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiatives.

Prior to becoming NIMHD Director, Dr. Pérez-Stable was a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Pérez-Stable’s research interests have centered on improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities through effective prevention interventions, understanding underlying causes of health disparities, and advancing patient-centered care for underserved populations. Recognized as a leader in Latino health care and disparities research, Dr. Pérez-Stable spent 32 years leading research on smoking cessation and tobacco control in Latino populations in the United States and Latin America, addressing clinical and prevention issues in cancer control research, supporting early career scientists in research on minority aging in clinical and community settings, and addressing research questions in clinical conditions such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes and dementia.

He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and was continuously funded by NIH grants for 30 years prior to becoming NIMHD Director. Dr. Pérez-Stable was also director of the UCSF Center for Aging in Diverse Communities, which is funded by NIH’s National Institute on Aging, and director of the UCSF Medical Effectiveness Research Center for Diverse Populations. He was a career mentor for many students, residents, and faculty, and a research mentor for over 70 minority investigators.

Dr. Pérez-Stable was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Science in 2001 and the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 1996. He earned his B.A. in chemistry in 1974 and M.D. in 1978 from the University of Miami. He then completed his primary care internal medicine residency and a research fellowship in general internal medicine at UCSF before joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1983. Dr. Pérez-Stable practiced primary care internal medicine for 37 years at UCSF following a panel of about 200 patients, and supervised and taught students and residents in the ambulatory care and hospital settings.

Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI

Provided by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Professor of Medicine, is Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Wilkins is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and a nationally recognized thought leader in health equity and in addressing the elimination of systemic inequities that impact the health and well-being of racial/ethnic minorities. As a community engagement research scientist, Dr. Wilkins has pioneered new approaches to engaging vulnerable, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and minority populations. She is Principal Investigator of three NIH-funded centers, the Vanderbilt-Miami-Meharry Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine and Population Health; the Center for Improving Clinical Trial Education Recruitment and Enrollment at CTSA Hubs; and the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Dr. Wilkins earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and Doctor of Medicine from Howard University. She completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a Geriatric Medicine fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Following her medical training, she earned a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation from Washington University School of Medicine.

Content from Pfizer

The following content is produced and paid for by a Washington Post Live event sponsor. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in the production of this content.

(Video: Washington Post Live)

Introducing Pfizer’s New Initiative to Embed Equity in Research

Race, ethnicity, age, sex, environment, and other social determinants of health including socio-economic status and health literacy can all impact how different people respond to the same medicine or vaccine. This is why inclusivity, starting at the earliest phases of research, is so important. The more diverse we can make every stage of the research process – from ideation to implementation – the more we can learn about the safety and efficacy of a potential medicine or vaccine for people who have characteristics like those of the participants. Hear Aida Habtezion, MD, MSc, chief medical officer of Pfizer, as she discusses the launch of the company’s new initiative to create a more equitable and inclusive R&D process and pipeline.

Aida Habtezion, MD, MSc

As Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, Aida Habtezion leads Pfizer's Worldwide Medical & Safety organization responsible for ensuring that patients, physicians, and regulatory agencies are provided with information on the safe and appropriate use of Pfizer medications.

Prior to joining Pfizer, Dr. Habtezion was a practicing physician and scientist at Stanford University's School of Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Digestive Health Clinic. She led an NIH-funded translational lab focused on understanding immune mechanisms and identifying potential immune-based therapeutic targets for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. While working in the lab, she served as a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine specializing in gastroenterology and hepatology, an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, a faculty member in Stanford's Immunology Ph.D. program, Neuroscience Institute, Cancer Institute, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute, and faculty fellow at Stanford's ChEM-H (Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health) at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Habtezion is a tenured professor and currently on a leave of absence from Stanford.

Dr. Habtezion is the recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Award, Gastroenterology & Hepatology Teaching Award, the Immunology Faculty Mentor of the Year, Synergy Award from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation for her research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and was named the Allen Distinguished Investigator. She was elected into the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of American Physicians, and the American Pancreas Association (APA) Council. Currently, she is the APA President-elect.

Dr. Habtezion obtained her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Alberta and Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph. She completed her medical degree from McMaster University. Dr. Habtezion completed her Internal Medicine residency from the University of Western Ontario and Gastroenterology & Hepatology clinical fellowship from the University of Toronto in Canada. Following her clinical fellowship training, she obtained postdoctoral research training in Immunology at Stanford University.

Dr. Habtezion was born in Eritrea and has lived on three continents and four countries. She enjoys traveling, music, and learning about different cultures.

Moderated by Elise Labott

Elise Labott is a leading journalist covering foreign US foreign policy and international issues. Elise is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and before that was CNN’s Global Affairs Correspondent. She has reported from more than 80 countries, traveled the world with seven secretaries of state and has interviewed many world leaders and newsmakers. Elise is the founder of Twopoint.o Media, a digital media platform that aims to engage, inform and inspire citizens to solve today’s most pressing global challenges, and an adjunct professor at American University’s School of International Service. She is a contributor to Politico, provides commentary for MSNBC, NPR, BBC and several other broadcast outlets and is a sought-after interviewer and moderator. Elise also serves as a global ambassador for Vital Voices, an organization that empowers female entrepreneurs around the world and is on the advisory committee of Global Kids DC, a program which introduces high school students in underserved communities to international affairs. Prior to joining CNN, Elise covered the UN for ABC News and also reported on diplomatic and foreign policy issues for Agence France-Presse and other publications. Elise is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master’s degree from the New School for Social Research.