Winter 2021

Inova launches Clinical Trials Diversity and Inclusion Working Group

by Stephanie Van Bebber, Sr. Director, Inova Schar Clinical Trials Office Inova Fairfax Hospital - Inova Schar Cancer Institute


Events over the summer of 2020 shook our country and led to an outpouring of commitment across organizations to intentionally address systemic issues around race and diversity.  At the Inova Health System, a multi-disciplinary group of clinical research team members came together to ask what role we might have in our field of work to engage in thoughtful actions towards inclusivity.


This group quickly assembled research staff and other related team members to discuss next steps and identify actionable items focused on our own day-to-day operations and within the framework of clinical trials. As therapeutic responses can differ across age, ethnicity and gender, including diverse patient populations in clinical trials is critical to understanding potential “real world” settings where therapies will be used. This group is developing actions to address the overarching question: How do we, at Inova, increase the diversity of participants in clinical research studies we manage? 


One of our first actions has been to gather baseline data on our current enrollments to clinical research in order to benchmark our “diversity starting point.”  As a group we have discussed and continue to analyze how this compares to the overall general patient population served by our institution.  We are also seeking to identify barriers and facilitators to diversifying participation in clinical trials with a focus on our own day-to-day operations and institutional barriers.  In contrast to more wide ranging and well-known barriers such as the increasing number of eligibility criteria that often limit diversity we believed that our own impacts could be greater if we focused on things that are to some extent within our control.  As a result of these initial discussions we are entering 2021 with a focus on educating our research staff to be better able to identify, inform and enroll diverse populations.


Already these discussions have alerted our clinical research teams of things we can immediately improve. We have created a list of research staff who are Inova-trained interpreters, had research staff seek training to be an interpreter and have department requests for the technology to support enrolling our non-English speaking participants to clinical trials. Probably the most important signal however is that more than 50 individuals have attended the meetings to date and we have had individuals asking, “Is the diversity/inclusion committee something I can join?” The answer is YES!

Photo courtesy of Inova

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iTHRIV is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science of the National Institutes of Health Awards UL1TR003015/ KL2TR003016.  Contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views of the institution and/or the National Institutes of Health.