SOM student wins award at AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting

Stephen Vance, a fourth-year medical student at the School of Medicine, was awarded the best student poster award at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting in Orlando, Fl. for his research on enrollment barriers in clinical trials that the Hispanic population of North Carolina encounter.

Public health was a featured topic at this year’s meeting in Florida where close to 2000 people attended.

“Winning the AcademyHealth Best Student Poster Award is an enormous honor and the culmination of a great deal of work and help from others,” said Vance.

Vance worked closely with his mentor Aida Lugo-Somolinos, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology, whose interests also lie in health services and disparities research. Both found an inconsistency between the barriers perceived by the Hispanic population and barriers perceived by clinical researchers.

The study involved questionnaires for both clinical investigators and approximately 400 members of the Hispanic community that asked each group about their perceptions about this discrepancy.

The majority of physician’s responses showed that they viewed language and transportation as hindrances to participation in clinical trials. On the other hand, the concerns of the 400 members of the Hispanic community involved the costs of participation in clinical trials, missing work, as well as a failure to understand the benefits of participation in clinical trials.

“Perhaps we have been focusing our resources on the incorrect barriers,” said Vance.

The researchers recommend four possible ways to increase involvement of the Hispanic community:

  • Provide information about studies to health care providers in areas with large Hispanic populations
  • In large cities, create partnerships with Hispanic advocacy groups
  • Communicate that trial participation is not necessarily costly and may take no more time than a regular doctor’s appointment
  • Include a person fluent in Spanish on the research team

“I think we view this research project not as a solution to the problem of low clinical trial enrollment by the Hispanic population, but as a new way to approach the problem,” he said. Dr. Lugos-Somolinos noted that the Dermatology Clinical Trials Unit has seen an increase in the participation of Hispanics since they implemented some of the suggestions that came out of the study.

Vance is an MD/MBA student, completing an MD at the UNC School of Medicine and an MBA at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. He hopes to graduate with both degrees in 2014.

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