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It is well-known that minorities are underrepresented in clinical trials at great expense to their health and safety. However, what is not as well-known is the diversity—or, rather, lack thereof—of those calling the shots. A new quality improvement study by Denby et al. found an upsetting lack of diverse leadership in clinical trials, despite the involvement of many minorities in science and medicine.

Denby et al.’s study focused specifically on female representation in leadership positions in cardiovascular clinical trials. Despite accounting for nearly half of all postdoctoral fellows, only 11.1% of clinical trial leadership committee members were women. Worse still, 41.5% of studies had no female investigators, and 55.5% had no female physicians on their leadership committees. Only 9.5% of trials had a committee with female representation greater than 25% [2]. 

Having minorities in clinical trial leadership increases minority participation in two ways: it can attract minorities by building trust in research and allowing them to see themselves represented, and minority leaders may in turn work harder to recruit and enroll minorities because they might be more acutely aware of the value in doing so. 

As the disparity of minority underrepresentation in clinical trials continues to grow, it is more critical than ever to increase minority leadership in clinical trials. Not doing so may allow researchers to continue turning a blind eye to minority underrepresentation. 


[1] Duma, N., Vera Aguilera, J., Paludo, J., Haddox, C. L., Gonzalez Velez, M., Wang, Y., Leventakos, K., Hubbard, J. M., Mansfield, A. S., Go, R. S., & Adjei, A. A. (2018). Representation of Minorities and Women in Oncology Clinical Trials: Review of the Past 14 Years. Journal of Oncology Practice, 14(1), e1–e10. https://doi.org/10.1200/JOP.2017.025288

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[2] Denby, K. J., Szpakowski, N., Silver, J., Walsh, M. N., Nissen, S., & Cho, L. (2020). Representation of Women in Cardiovascular Clinical Trial Leadership. JAMA Internal Medicine, 180(10), 1382–1383. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2485