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Help Us Discover and the Yale Cultural Ambassadors Programs

In 2010, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI), the home of the Yale CTSA met with community leaders to engage our minority community leaders in a dialogue about clinical research, their health care priorities and to engage them in the process of improving community health. This led to the development of partnerships with Junta for Progressive Action (Junta) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion). Junta for Progressive Action’s mission is to provide services, programs and advocacy that improve the social, political and economic conditions of the Latino community in greater New Haven while nurturing and promoting its cultural traditions as it builds bridges with other communities. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion), one of the oldest African American congregation in the United States, has created the Cultural Ambassadors Program. The major purpose of the Cultural Ambassadors Program is to help ensure YCCI’s clinical research reflects the diversity of New Haven’s population, and directly offers benefits to the local community.

The Cultural Ambassadors have also assisted YCCI in developing its “Help Us Discover” clinical trials awareness campaign that is designed to promote Yale clinical research and recruit a broad spectrum of volunteers to participate in clinical research. This multimedia campaign initiative included, among other strategies, television, bus, and commuter train posters and a series of educational brochures intended to educate the community about the benefits and safeguards of clinical research participation while also addressing misconceptions. Representatives from the Cultural Ambassadors program were intimately involved in developing the text, designing, editing and choosing of appropriate photos for the brochures. Since its launch the campaign has attracted thousands of new volunteers to build profiles.

In March of 2015, the “Help Us Discover program” was greatly enhanced by an Epic integration, Yale’s enterprise-wide electronic health record. This integration was aided by the 2014 decision of Yale School of Medicine along with our partner, Yale New Haven Health System, to be an opt-out enterprise. The decision has allowed us to focus on many direct to patient innovations using our Epic EHR, including the conversion of the “Help Us Discover” volunteer profile from a paper to an electronic profile from the Yale research tab in the MyChart patient portal.

These combined efforts have enabled Yale to recruit more than 26,000 patients to research studies over the last year, with underrepresented populations making up 30% of all participants in clinical research at Yale.