Strengthening the Region’s Competitiveness in Clinical Research

August 9, 2021

Strengthening the Region’s Competitiveness in Clinical Research

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are a defining step in the process of bringing new treatments to patients. New medicines and therapies must undergo rigorous testing before they are approved for use by the FDA on human subjects. After successful animal studies, research moves into clinical settings to assess the overall safety and efficacy of a drug, device, diagnostic, treatment, preventive measure, or similar intervention by testing them on patients.

Why are they important to the El Paso region?

To combat global health disparities, employing strategies -such as clinical research, to better serve and best treat diseases across an increasingly diverse pool of patients is of utmost importance.

It is widely recognized that­ the lack of representation in clinical research is a major determinant of health outcomes, among other factors. To that same point, Black/African Americans and Latinx/Hispanic Americans are typically underrepresented in industry-sponsored trials despite constituting 12% and 16% of the total population, respectively. With a population of over 80% Hispanics, El Paso is a great location for moving the needle on improving Hispanic representation in clinical research. Likewise, access to clinical research is anticipated to become increasingly important to achieve good healthcare outcomes as medicine transitions from one-size-fits-all to a more precision-based, personalized approach.

Clinical research is also important for the growth and development of El Paso’s healthcare ecosystem, by helping develop centers of excellence and elevating the overall care provided. New partner models, technological advancements, and efforts to streamline the clinical research processes are also making it easier for El Paso’s physicians to enter this market and be successful.

From a community perspective, being one of the top 20 largest cities in the US, there should not be a reason why El Pasoans should have to search for advanced, cutting-edge care elsewhere. Instead, a city of our size should have the option of participating in clinical research from the comfort of home and with the support of family and loved ones nearby. Traveling to gain access to innovative care is also time and cost-prohibitive for many El Paso residents.

The following quote from Deborah Clegg, VP of Research at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, summarizes why clinical research is important to the El Paso region:

“Location is everything. A truism that applies not only to real estate, but also to biomedical research. Geographically and culturally in sync at the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) provides an early glimpse of what our nation will soon resemble. Over 81% of the El Paso community is Mexican-American, and along with others of Latino background, comprise the fastest-growing minority group in the country. This broad demographic is the least understood and thus potentially the most at-risk regarding susceptibility to major diseases such as diabetes, breast and colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other disorders. For this reason alone, it is vital to study the genetic, environmental, and other influences on the health of our Latino population.”

How can the El Paso region strengthen its clinical research infrastructure?

The MCA Healthcare and Clinical Trial Programs are committed to increasing local patient access to clinical research as a strategy to improve health outcomes and address regional and national growing healthcare disparities.

The process of strengthening our clinical research infrastructure is comprised of two (2) critical, yet interdependent, steps:

  • Growth and diversification our clinical research workforce
  • Increasing the number of sites conducting quality research in our region

Achieving either step begins with improving regional awareness about clinical research as a care option and as a profession. Outpatient healthcare clinics, for the most part, are not aware of the ways clinical research can help their patients and business thrive––particularly in today’s era of precision and value-based medicine. Similarly, job applicants are also generally unaware that building a career in clinical research does not require more than a high school diploma and the rewards include being in a meaningful and rewarding career with competitive wages and opportunities for advancement. The same is true for physicians interested in becoming an investigator, healthcare professionals looking to upskill and expose their career to new opportunities, or those simply seeking a job or transition into a meaningful career. Finally, for those seeking to establish themselves in this profession, it is also generally difficult to know where to go to get training or how to establish the operational infrastructure needed to conduct high-quality clinical research sustainably and successfully.

Sponsored by Bristol Meyers Squibb’s (BMS) Office for Latino Advancement, and in partnership with the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), the MCA is launching its Clinical Trial Academy (CTA) to address this issue. This academy will aim to accelerate regional awareness about clinical research and its benefits. For anyone interested, the program will provide clinical research training to investigators and entry-level coordinators. Likewise, the CTA will also provide healthcare clinics with operational startup support needed to establish the clinical research infrastructure to conduct research on their own or in partnership with an existing investigator site. Program launch is anticipated to occur in September 2021.

Regional and national sites interested in partnering with outpatient clinics in El Paso and Las Cruces include: Western Sky Medical Research, 3A Research, TriCore Research Institute, El Paso Medical Research Institute, Elligo Health Research, Javara Research, HD Research, and WCG Clinical.

To learn more about clinical trials, their importance to our region, or about the Clinical Trials Academy, visit the link below:

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