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VUMC partners with Yale and Morehouse Schools of Medicine, industry organizations to increase diversity in clinical trials

Jul. 21, 2022, 11:35 AM


by Mia Garchitorena

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is partnering with Yale School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and the Research Centers in Minority Institutions Coordinating Center (RCMI CC) at the Morehouse School of Medicine in an initiative aimed at increasing diversity in clinical trials and addressing systemic barriers to participation by communities of color.

The Equitable Breakthroughs in Medicine Development (EQBMED) partnership is an industry-wide, community-based effort created to enhance clinical trial diversity through the development and support of a network of clinical trial sites in underserved areas. EQBMED is unique because it brings together pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions, subject matter experts, providers and community leaders.

Peter Embí, MD, MS

“To ensure that clinical trial results are relevant and applicable across diverse populations, we must find new ways to ethically and effectively improve participation by people from diverse backgrounds,” said principal investigator Peter Embí, MD, MS, chair of Biomedical Informatics, professor of Medicine and Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation at VUMC. “At VUMC, we are focused on advancing personalized health care for everyone and enabling equitable participation in clinical trials is essential to that mission.”

VUMC brings unmatched expertise to the EQBMED, including novel biomedical informatics approaches to trial recruitment and retention and innovative approaches to engaging marginalized and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations in clinical research.

“As a physician, researcher and proud member of the Hispanic-American community, I recognize that we face many challenges in overcoming disparities in clinical trials and health care, and I am excited to partner with my colleagues on this critically important initiative,” Embí said. “Through our collaboration, I’m confident that we will learn and implement new ways to overcome systemic barriers and improve the pace of ethical research for those who have been historically underrepresented.”

“Profound disparities in health outcomes continue to exist and conducting clinical trials without populations that have the highest burden of disease only serves to exacerbate health inequities,” said Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Senior Vice President for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence at VUMC and senior associate dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence in the School of Medicine.

“I’m thrilled that VUMC is a partner in the Equitable Breakthroughs initiative, and with Dr. Embí’s leadership we will leverage our collective strengths in biomedical informatics and community engaged research to enhance recruitment and retention of people from minoritized groups into clinical trials.”

“It is important now, more than ever, for academic institutions, local organizations, industry, and especially patients to collaborate and work as a team to address health care disparities,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer for VUMC and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development. “At VUMC, many initiatives are underway to improve clinical trial diversity and ultimately the health and lives of our patients both within and beyond our catchment area. We are committed to EQBMED’s mission and Dr. Embí’s leadership efforts in the partnership.”

The EQBMED will be selecting a network of 10 initial community-based clinical trial sites in the Southeast and Southwest over the next 18 months to assess progress and determine the best next steps to enhancing clinical trial diversity.

The goal of this learning phase will be to evaluate and explore new collaborations, tools and infrastructures intended to address historically systemic barriers which have limited participation in biomedical research by populations of color in the past. EQBMED partners will use data to study the impact of the effort and will share the learnings.

In addition to partnering with community leaders to raise education, awareness and support for clinical trial participation, the EQBMED will provide resources and technical support for local sites and establish training and mentorship opportunities for investigators and staff. The EQBMED will also initiate ongoing engagement with the patient community on the potential benefits of participating in medicine development.

The initiative is funded by a grant from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Learn more about Equitable Breakthroughs in Medicine Development at

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