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As the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the racial inequalities in the United States’ healthcare system, entrepreneurs in genetic research are speaking out about the importance of encouraging community outreach to combat those disparities and increasing diversity inside their own industry.
An important first step in the battle is for industry leaders to acknowledge the foundational events that seeded the distrust many communities of color harbor today towards medical research, Tshaka Cunningham, co-founder and chief scientific officer of TruGenomix, said Thursday at a STAT Summit panel with Anne Wojcicki, chief executive of 23andMe and Tony Coles, chief executive of Cerevel Therapeutics.
“You talk about the African American community, there are psychological scars there with regard to the health care system going all the way back to Tuskegee,” Cunningham said, referring to the infamous research studies from 1932-1972 that purposely left Black men with syphilis untreated in order to observe the progression of the disease despite the existence of life-saving interventions.
“We have to repair that,” he added.
One way to heal those historic wounds, Cunningham said, is through the work of “honest brokers,” or members of those communities who are knowledgeable about science and medical research and capable of sharing their insight authentically and authoritatively with their neighbors.
As a member of the Faith-based Genetic Research Institute, Cunningham goes into communities of color and predominantly African American churches to talk with people about genetics, genomics, and testing. Cunningham, who has served as a deacon at Alfred Street Baptist …
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