Skip to Main Content

Clinical trials are critical to advancing lifesaving medications and treatments. But the U.S. is falling woefully short in making sure that these trials represent the broader population, as some researchers don’t even record the racial and ethnic makeup of the people in their trials.

Improving diversity in clinical trials is one of the most important steps needed to achieve health equity. The reasons for this underrepresentation are myriad and complex. Obstacles range from individuals not having physical access to clinical trial sites, to general distrust of the medical institutions running the research, to a lack of proper community outreach. How can researchers overcome these challenges and champion the importance of increasing diversity in clinical trials to the medical community at large?


Main Street, Richmond, Virginia around 1905. Slaves paved the streets of Richmond — some of that work still remains today. Library of Congress

In this episode, we speak with STAT cancer reporter Angus Chen, who recently went to Richmond, Va., to report on the efforts of physician Robert Winn, director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, who connects with the local community, fosters relationships, and educates folk about clinical trials. Jonathan Jackson, the executive director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, tells us about the barriers to achieving more diverse clinical trials and what needs to be done to topple them.

Members of the Highland Springs community listen to VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Winn (not pictured), during the District Walks on Monday, March 28, 2022 in Varina, VA. This initiative was created by him to get local politicians to walk with him in underrepresented communities in hopes of bringing change to those communities. Carlos Bernate for STAT

A transcript of this episode is available here.

You can subscribe to “Color Code” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, and elsewhere. New episodes will be released every other Monday.


To read more on some of the topics discussed in the episode:

And check out some of STAT’s coverage on the topic:

This podcast was made possible with support from the Commonwealth Fund.

The reporting by Angus Chen in this episode was also made possible with support from the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism‘s 2022 Impact Fund for Reporting on Health Equity and Health Systems.