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ACR Initiative Aims to Reach More than 130 Providers and Community Healthcare Workers to Close Racial Disparities Gap in Lupus Clinical Trials

October 24, 2023 | ACR News


ATLANTA — The ACR is expanding an initiative to reduce racial disparities in lupus clinical trials. The Training to Increase Minority Enrollment in Lupus Clinical Trials with CommunitY Engagement (TIMELY) seeks to engage and educate an additional 60 rheumatologists, nephrologists, dermatologists; and 75 more community health workers to build upon the work completed in the first two years of the program.

“The ACR’s lupus initiative aims to reduce lupus-related health disparities among disproportionately affected populations by promoting awareness and education to healthcare providers, medical educators, and patients,” said Starla Blanks, senior director of collaborative initiatives for the American College of Rheumatology.

“Well-designed clinical trials need to be inclusive of all communities to produce results that are generalizable to the entire population. Unfortunately, despite the higher prevalence of lupus among African American and Latinx populations, members of these communities are underrepresented in clinical trials. The TIMELY project is an important component of this initiative,” said Allen Anandarajah, MD, MS, professor of medicine, allergy/immunology and rheumatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York and co-leader of the TIMELY program. The pilot phase of the program initially recruited 54 physicians and 57 community health workers. During the next phase, the ACR hopes to double their numbers.

The program combines the ACR’s Materials to Increase Minority Involvement in Clinical Trials (MIMICT) and its model to operate collaboratively with practicing rheumatologists, nephrologists, and dermatologists and community health workers serving African American and Hispanic patients. The combined intervention aims to address both provider- and patient-reported barriers to lupus clinical trial participation.

TIMELY, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), began as a two-year project in 2021. The ACR will continue the program for three more years thanks to a $1.5 million dollar grant from OMH. The additional funding will help expand the program’s reach.

“This grant allows us to broaden both the outreach and influence of our work. We believe that the more physicians, healthcare providers, and community health workers that we can inform and engage through this project, the greater impact we will have on the lives of our patients with lupus,” said Saira Sheikh, MD, the Linda Coley Sewell distinguished professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, director of the UNC Rheumatology Lupus Clinic, and co-leader of the TIMELY program. “We are also highlighting the value of building real world, practical models that enhance and support effective partnerships between academic and community practices, and community health workers.”

The program launched in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Rochester, New York. The ACR has a track record of success as evidenced by the lupus initiative’s MIMICT project, which was also funded by OMH. Both Sheikh and Anandarajah say they will use their lessons learned from the first two years of this program to work on diversifying clinical trials nationwide.

In addition to the TIMELY program, the ACR also hosted a virtual Clinical Trial Summit in July to bring together researchers, rheumatologists, physicians, patients, and more to discuss the challenges and strategies in diversifying lupus clinical trials.

For more information about ACR’s work on lupus awareness and educational programs, please visit thelupusinitiative.org.

Media Contact
Amanda Head


About the American College of Rheumatology
Founded in 1934, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is a not-for-profit, professional association committed to advancing the specialty of rheumatology that serves nearly 8,500 physicians, health professionals, and scientists worldwide. In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatology professionals are experts in the diagnosis, management and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases.

AAbout Collaborative Initiatives (COIN)
The work of the ACR’s COIN department is accomplished through the cultivation and engagement of a national network of organizations. Its three guiding principles set the tone for how the national network operates: (1) the health and overall wellbeing of people with lupus and other rheumatic diseases is the sole agenda; (2) health disparities are part of the conversation at a core level; and (3) total inclusivity is key.

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