USC’s Keck School of Medicine Dedicated to Diversity in Cardiac Surgery Clinical Trials

Jul 17, 2019 | Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network, Cardiovascular, Patient Diversity, Patient Recruitment, USC

USC’s Keck School of Medicine

Keck School of Medicine of USC won a highly competitive seven-year,  $4.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to engage and recruit underrepresented populations in cardiac surgery clinical trials as part of the Cardio-thoracic Surgical Trials Network (CTSN).

Clinical Trials Participants Should Better Reflect Society’s Population

Keck School of Medicine of USC continues to promote and implement clinical research that better reflects the population around the prestigious Southern California private institution.  Located in central Los Angeles just south of downtown, USC represents a strategic clinical research nexus surrounded by some of the most diverse districts in the U.S., in what is the heart of America’s second largest city.

With nearly 20 million people in the broader Los Angeles region, constant demographic change and transformation reflects an ongoing theme in a dynamic and constantly moving society—one that has profound divisions and chasms including wealth and access—including health outcomes. Adjacent to USC, vast swathes of what were traditionally African American neighborhoods have transformed into some of the largest Hispanic immigrant communities in North America.  Directly to the north of campus include some of the most ethnically diverse urban districts in the U.S. if not the world—from Rampart and Pico Union to Hollywood and Koreatown, USC is located in one of the most dynamic and exciting communities in the world.

Rich in diversity across a spectrum—economic, ethic, language, gender, ability and health—Keck School of Medicine is well known for its notable investment in community engagement—committed to the necessary listening and learning that is required to overcome traditional trust barriers, for example, with underrepresented populations.

The Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network (CTSN)

The NHLBI grant award was allocated to Keck School of Medicine of USC due to its ongoing commitment to high quality, creative and collaborative approach to clinical research which includes considerable community engagement with a focus on underrepresented populations.   This ongoing commitment to diversity in research, for example, actively contributes to the formal NIH infrastructure for conducting major clinical trials in cardiac surgery.

Keck Medicine of USC has been an active member of the CTSN since 2010. The CTSN includes more than 40 major academic medical centers across the United States and Canada, and more than 20 hospitals in Europe.

The CTSN seeks to foster a culture of rigorous scientific comparisons and promote the evaluation of newer surgical techniques, devices, and innovative pharmaceutical and bioengineered products directed at improving cardiovascular disease outcomes in adult populations.

CTSN offers the infrastructure to develop, coordinate, and conduct multiple collaborative proof-of-concept studies and interventional protocols to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes. The network has been developed and supported to enable interdisciplinary research teams to evaluate therapies and techniques as they move from laboratory’s science to broad clinical use.

On the Ground at Keck School of Medicine

This grant will also support Keck’s effort to establish an implementation science training program to address the critical need to develop methods to translate clinical research findings into clinical practice. The Keck team has made it a point to focus on and improve overall community health outcomes.  Based on the academic medical center’s location and commitment to broader health goals (including the local community and serving those in need), generations of Trojans have understood the incredible privileges associated with attendance there as well as the inherent responsibilities which are manifested in their ongoing community engagement programs for example.

Clinical Trials at Keck are a View into the World

Clinical trials offer investigators the insight into how people of all walks of life will respond to medical interventions, including surgery. Factors such as age, weight, genetics, ethnic origin and geographic location all play a role in how a person may react to different treatments.  Consequently, diversity in trial participation is of vital importance in the bigger and broader agenda of ultimately addressing public health concerns.  Michael Bowdish, MD, MS, principal investigator and associate professor of surgery and preventive medicine commented “Nearly half of Los Angeles residents are Hispanic, making the Keck School uniquely positioned to recruit a large, underrepresented population in cardiac surgery trials.” Dr. Bowdish continued “By increasing patient diversity in cardiac surgery clinical trials, we are better suited to address cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of mortality in the United States.”

Partnership with Los Angeles Department of Health Services (DHS)

The Los Angeles Department of Health Services represents the second largest municipal health system in the United States.  The Keck School has established deep, far reaching relationships with this large, dynamic and all-encompassing public health care service agency.  In collaboration with Los Angeles County DHS, the Keck School will also tap into and mobilize the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI), which offers ongoing outreach and education to more than 30 predominantly Hispanic community health organizations in Los Angeles.

Implementation of Science Training Program

As part of the grant the Keck School will also explore novel ways to translate findings from clinical research in cardiac surgery into clinical practice. This effort will include ongoing activity and outcomes from the collaborative relationships between the Keck School, SC CTSI, the USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science, and the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. An ongoing collaboration with the Mid America Heart Institute Cardiovascular Research Fellowship will also offer contribution.

The Keck School of Medicine of USC

The institution was founded in 1885 and is part of California’s oldest private research university.  The Keck School is among the nation’s leaders in innovative patient care, scientific discovery, education and community service.  With more than 1,850 faculty and faculty members and more than 2,400 physicians, the university supports 800 medical students and 1,000 student pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. The school trains more than 900 resident physicians in more than 50 specialty or subspecialty programs and is the largest educator of physicians practicing in Southern California.

Lead Research/Investigator

Michael Bowdish, MD, MS, principal investigator and associate professor of surgery and preventive medicine


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