BTI Speaker Series
Speaker: Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence; Associate Director, Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Science; Professor of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Dr. Wilkins is Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence and Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In her presentation, she makes a distinction between the focus on health equity and the focus on diversity of the workforce. Health equity is directed toward making changes in health outcomes; assuring that everyone has fair and just opportunities for optimal health. Diversity and Inclusion is directed toward recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce and student body. Dr. Wilkins is of the opinion that precision medicine is unlikely to have a major role in resolving health inequities. To solve these issues, we need to address root causes such as poverty, education, affordable housing. Whereas precision medicine is centered around genetics and genomics, to address health equity we need to be person-centered. For example, we need to understand the difference between race and ancestry. This will require bringing social determinants of health into our studies of health disparities. Dr. Wilkins described one effort to do this in conjunction with the All of Us research program, by conducting Community Engagement Studios across many communities, which led to a very diverse study sample, with fewer than 50% European White. She then addressed work she has done to identify institutional strategies for diversifying the workforce, which has led to a set of recommendations.
Speaker: Jennifer C. Danek, MD, Clinical Instructor, Medicine, University of Washington
Dr. Danek shared some data and resources related to increasing the diversity of the biomedical workforce by making changes in the way that institutions evaluate applicants and also by cultivating an inclusive climate that engenders a sense of belonging and a growth mindset. As one example, she described the shift in graduate schools away from using the GRE as a screening tool, and the evidence supporting this shift. Asked to provide advice for first steps toward increasing diversity, Dr. Danek recommended making a commitment to evidence-based practices in admissions and moving toward holistic evaluation of applicants. She also shared a number of available resources to support faculty in their efforts to create an inclusive academic environment.
Speaker: Dr. Keith C. Norris, UCLA, Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute Community Engagement Research Program.
Dr. Norris has received numerous honors and awards from students, peers, community, and professional organizations. As PI or Program Director he has been awarded of $250 million in federal grant funding. He has co-authored over 450 articles in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters, and over 350 scientific abstracts. He serves as the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the international journal Ethnicity and Disease, a multidisciplinary journal focusing on minority ethnic population differences in health promotion and disease prevention, including research in the areas of epidemiology, genetics, health services, social biology, and medical anthropology. He also serves as a member of the editorial board for the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Dr. Norris spoke to the ICTS Steering Committee about the use of race/ethnicity to inform clinical decision-making. The evidence shows that although there may be certain genetic variations that are more likely to occur in some race/ethnic groups than others, such patterns provide little useful information when applied to any individual patient. Genetic variability across subgroups within a racial or ethnic group can be greater than genetic variability between racial/ethnic groups. Thus, it is misleading to include race/ethnicity as a component of algorithms used to inform risk assessments at the individual patient level. Clinical researchers need to reassess their historical use of race/ethnicity as a biological construct.