Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care receives $652,000 grant to fund DE&I inclusion interventions

Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care said it was pleased to be the recent recipient of a $652,000 grant over three years from BD, a global medical technology company headquartered in Franklin Lakes, to the Valley Hospital Foundation.

The grant will help fund diversity, equity & inclusion interventions that will increase access to clinical trials and leading-edge health care opportunities for underrepresented patient populations, including racial and ethnic minority groups.

In August 2021, Valley Health System was selected as one of 75 research sites nationwide to participate in a pilot project, launched in collaboration between the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Association of Community Cancer Centers, which focused on increasing racial and ethnic diversity in cancer clinical trial participants. The goal of this pilot project was to establish strategies and solutions to increase participation in cancer treatment clinical trials, particularly among individuals from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic communities.

As a participating research site, Valley conducted a site self-assessment to identify any policies, procedures or programs that may affect which patients are screened for and offered a clinical trial. Research and care team members also underwent implicit bias training to acknowledge and mitigate bias that may affect which patients are offered clinical trials.

“I am proud of Valley’s participation in the ASCO and ACCC pilot program, but I am even prouder of the steps that our teams are taking to implement change and improve DEI in our cancer clinical trials,” Taja Ferguson, director of Valley’s Okonite Research Center, said.

Using the knowledge gained from participation in this pilot program, Valley has drafted the Oncology Program Clinical Trial Diversity Initiative, which includes several internal interventions that, when acted upon, will enhance clinical trial recruitment and ensure participation of underrepresented groups in cancer clinical trials is achieved.

Interventions include a ride share program, health literacy and awareness campaigns, expanded eligibility criteria, relationships with faith-based organizations, creation of a community needs assessment and patient-friendly navigation system, and increased use of telemedicine technologies.

“When we accepted the invitation to participate in the pilot program, our intention was to learn as much as we could and use this knowledge to build upon the tools provided to us,” Dr. Ephraim Casper, chief medical officer, Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care, said. “Now, with a grant provided by BD, we are beginning to see our hard work take shape.”

“As a global organization, we recognize that we have a responsibility to drive critical improvements across the health care system that help enhance outcomes, improve safety and expand access to quality care,” Bill Sigmund, executive vice president and chief medical officer, BD — also known as Becton, Dickinson & Co. — stated. “We know that cancer is a disease that disproportionately impacts people of color because, often, they face disparate access to routine screenings. With this grant from BD, we are proud to support Valley Health System and the Oncology Program Clinical Trial Diversity Initiative in doing what is right to further address health inequities in clinical trials.”

The Oncology Program Clinical Trial Diversity Initiative is slated to roll out over the course of the next five years.