ASSETS: Building Trustworthiness in Clinical Research

More than 50 people filled the auditorium at Loretto Hospital in the Chicago West Side community of Austin for the third workshop in the University of Illinois Cancer Center “Structural Solutions for Diverse Cancer Trials (ASSETS) for Cook County” series held November 13.

Patients who participated in cancer clinical trials, community partners, health system leaders and pharmaceutical partners came together at the workshop to focus on building trustworthiness in and access to clinical research for patients in all communities. One powerful structural solution to inclusive clinical trials is their delivery in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and safety-net facilities.

During the workshop, there were interactive panel discussions, audience questions and then small discussion groups focused on clinical trials for breast, prostate and lung cancers and patients living with HIV and cancer.

The next workshop in the series will be a free December 14 webinar.

The inaugural ASSETS panel discussion was held in August at the 100 Black Men of Chicago Health and Wellness Expo. The second installment in the series was in October as a preconference event at MOLA’s VII Annual Latinx Health Symposium in Chicago. MOLA is the Medical Organization for Latino Advancement, a non-profit association of Hispanic/Latino physicians and health professionals.

Speakers at the Loretto Hospital workshop were:

  • Jeannette Carter is a two-time breast cancer survivor, a motivational speaker whose goal is to decrease stigma around cancer in communities of color, and a University of Illinois Cancer Center patient partner who served on the Caner Center’s Protocol Review Committee member.
  • Marta Soto is a lung cancer survivor, University of Illinois Cancer Center clinical trial participant and UI Health patient.
  • Carol Gyimatey is a two-time triple-negative breast cancer survivor and University of Illinois Cancer Center clinical trial participant. She is a strong advocate for self-awareness of knowing your body. “When you feel something wrong, check it out. You are your own first defense against this disease,” she says.

  • Lois Clarke, MD, is Chief Clinical Officer at Loretto Hospital in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the West Side. Clarke, who did a residency in Emergency Medicine at Stroger Cook County Hospital in Chicago, holds a Medical Degree from Michigan State University, a Master of Science Degree in Biology from Chicago State University, and a Certificate in Clinical Trials Management from the University of Chicago.
  • VK Gadi, MD, PhD, is the University of Illinois Cancer Center Deputy Director and a UI Health Medical Oncologist. As an academic investigator, he develops and conducts clinical trials of new medicines, diagnostic tools, and supportive care to improve outcomes for patients with breast and other types of cancers. His laboratory has made critical discoveries in cancer biology, immunology and diagnostics.
  • Manoj Prasad, MD, MBA, PhD, FACHE, CHCSP, is President and Group CEO of AUM Global Healthcare (dba Resilience Healthcare), Westlaw Management Group, West Suburban Medical Center and Weiss Memorial Hospital. He is a health care executive with more than 30 years of experience spanning the health care industry continuum with his early training as a primary care physician, followed by training and experience in health care business management, quality improvement, health care cybersecurity and health care technology. Currently, he is working to make West Suburban and Weiss hospitals better positioned to continue their mission of providing critical health care services to their respective communities.
  • Shalini Mohan, MD, is Head of Health Equity and Inclusive Research, U.S. Medical Affairs at Genentech. She currently leads a team focused on advancing health equity through inclusive research and supporting access to trials and health care for underserved populations in the United States. She conducted the largest randomized placebo-controlled trial for COVID-19 pneumonia and was successful in enrolling 85% of historically underrepresented patients. This trial has become foundational for Genentech’s mission to be a leader in health equity research.
  • Rochelle Williams-Belizaire, MPH, CPH, is Director of Clinical Research Collaborations at Mirati Therapeutics. She is recognized for her expertise in early and late-phase oncology clinical research operations and trial design. In a career spanning over two decades, she has consistently driven strategic initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the realm of clinical trials. Her lived experiences as an accomplished health equity professional, and as an immigrant, Black female, and mother to a hematology patient has fueled her ongoing passion toward equitable access to clinical trials and health care.
  • Tameika Graham, MPH, is Head of Feasibility Strategy and Analytics for Oncology and Non-Malignant Hematology within Clinical Development and Operations at Pfizer. She has oversight of a team of global colleagues who are responsible for employing data driven insights to influence protocol design​, country and site identification strategies, and to develop enrollment modeling projections. In her current and previous roles, she has led or contributed to initiatives to increase clinical trial diversity; enhance patient-centered drug development; implement operational process efficiencies; and optimize protocol design.

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