January 16, 2020

Wilkins named CTSA co-principal investigator

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, has joined Gordon Bernard, MD, as co-principal investigator of Vanderbilt’s Clinical and Translational Science Award.

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, a leader in health equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), has joined Gordon Bernard, MD, as co-principal investigator (co-PI) of Vanderbilt’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI

The $8-million-a-year federal grant supports the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), which since 2007 has fostered the development of innovations including BioVU, Vanderbilt’s massive DNA repository, ResearchMatch, an online national volunteer recruitment registry, and REDCap, a Web-based research management application used worldwide.

Wilkins will promote health equity initiatives, community engagement and recruitment of people who have not been well represented in clinical and translational research in the past. These include minority and rural populations and those who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

Wilkins, currently executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, will give up that role once a successor has been named but she will continue to work closely with Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College to ensure their investigators have access to expert faculty collaborators, core resources and services to catalyze innovative research.

“I’m thrilled to join the CTSA leadership and consider it a privilege to work with a team that has distinguished Vanderbilt as one of the preeminent clinical and translational research programs in the country,” Wilkins said.

“We are well positioned to expand our work to address inequities in health outcomes and develop novel approaches to some of the most complex health conditions,” she said.

This goal was elaborated recently by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funds CTSA programs at Vanderbilt and more than 50 other “hubs” around the country.

According to NCATS, the national CTSA program should strive to include underrepresented populations, address health disparities and approach cultural factors as variables to be examined when developing and testing translational innovations.

“With the addition of Dr. Wilkins in a stronger leadership role we are even more poised to do just that, and to actually serve as a trailblazer in the vital goal of improving health equity,” Bernard said.

Bernard, who has served as PI of the Vanderbilt CTSA since its inception in 2007, is the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine and Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC.

Wilkins is a nationally recognized expert in stakeholder engagement and has been leading the CTSA Consortium committee focused on community engagement.

As co-PI she will also oversee development of methods for disseminating results to research participants.

Last year she was named to newly created positions of Vice President for Health Equity at VUMC and Associate Dean for Health Equity for VUSM.

Among other large infrastructure programs, VICTR now houses one of three national Trial Innovation Centers, led by Bernard, and the only national Recruitment Innovation Center, led by Wilkins and REDCap creator Paul Harris, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering and director of VUMC’s Office of Research Informatics.

Both centers contribute to the efficient, high quality conduct of multisite clinical trials.