Clinical trials instructor recognized for healthcare equity work
Clinical research is only as good as its data which is why Silicon Valley researcher Tom Rico Pamukcu is working to make sure more people have the opportunity to participate in the clinical trials they need.
“The big picture goal is to make it so that any person, regardless of who they are or where they live, have equal and equitable access to clinical research,” says Pamukcu who teaches Data Privacy and Security for Healthcare and Biosciences at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension.
Pamukcu recently launched HealthWallet.app, a startup that inverts the traditional clinical trial outreach process by bringing clinical trial information to communities historically excluded from accessing important research.
“When we’re creating medicines of the future, we want to make sure they’re safe and effective for all people,” Pamukcu says.
Equity in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials, however, have often focused on the people who have the best access to healthcare—white men. The result is clinical trial data is not always representative of most of the patient population it is intended to help.
The Roddenberry Foundation recently awarded Pamukcu a fellowship for his work in healthcare equity. It comes with a $50,000 grant to help him reach out to partners in low-income clinics across the U.S.
“I’m really excited to receive the Rodenberry award especially among a cohort of other inspiring leaders,” Pamukcu says. “All of us are approaching our different fields with the intention of really improving the status quo and addressing inequities. We’re making meaningful change in domains where it’s desperately needed.”
Improving Access to Clinical Trials
The idea behind HealthWallet.app is to connect people to the more than 24,000 clinical trials underway in the U.S. The free app is available to everyone looking to find clinical trial options.
The HealthWallet.app solves several problems. It provides willing, eligible participants for clinical trials—a huge problem for clinicians who often struggle to find people who meet stringent trial requirements. It also improves the data pool by linking trials with people who are representative of a broader, more diverse population.
Making the Pie bigger
“Rather than clinical trials reaching out to patients to see if they’re eligible, we’re asking the individual to reach out to researchers,” Pamukcu says. “We have the best tool to find clinical trials that there is. What we’re selling to researchers is the opportunity to have this entirely new channel of participants come knocking on the lab door.”
“Instead of researchers competing to get a bigger piece of the pie, we’re making the pie bigger,” Pamukcu says.
Technology isn’t the solution, Pamukcu says.
“It’s a tool. Obviously, long-term systemic barriers are not going to be solved solely by a cool, new app. But, we’re building technology to empower new patients like never before, which is a first step towards that change.”