COVID-19 is four times more likely to severely affect African Americans than their white counterparts (see go.nature.com/37fffny). Structural racism in our society undoubtedly contributes to this stark difference. As physician-scientists, we have a duty to break this cycle of disadvantage through our clinical work, scientific inquiry and education efforts.
Health inequity is perpetuated by social, economic and environmental disparities in the African American community. Researchers focusing on patient-oriented studies should ensure that cohorts are representative of racial demographics. Too few people of colour currently enrol in clinical trials. This stems, in part, from mistrust, after the US Public Health Service’s scandalous 1932–72 Tuskegee study of untreated syphilis in Black males (see S. M. Reverby Nature 567, 462; 2019). Clinical researchers now have an obligation to patients and their families to advocate and educate on the risks and benefits of participation in clinical trials.
As educators, we must also remove the unconscious bias that affects student selection and commit to mentoring students of colour. This will expand the pipeline of under-represented scientists and better equip us to tackle racial disparities in a clinical setting.
Nature 583, 202 (2020)