In order to conduct clinical research that is relevant to everyday dental practice in the United States, the PEARL Network has encouraged its practitioner-investigators (P-Is) to enroll subjects from ethnic and racial backgrounds that reflect the country's diversity. Enlisting practitioner-investigators from diverse backgrounds has helped PEARL broaden its subject pool. For example, Dr. Keith A. Hudson, a suburban Detroit, Michigan, private practitioner of African-American heritage, has enrolled 59 59 African Americans in the PEARL study of analgesic use and effectiveness, which addresses the relative effectiveness of different analgesics for particular procedures or patients.
Collectively, PEARL P-Is have responded by recruiting a total of 548 underrepresented research subjects to date, including 229 Latinos, 214 African Americans, and 105 Asians, many of them from underserved communities.
"Dr. Hudson has done a great job of marketing clinical research to prospective subjects in his predominantly African-American practice by taking the time to fully explain how the study will contribute to improvements in patient care," said Dr. Ronald G. Craig, Director of PEARL's Information Dissemination Core. "Commun-icating effectively about research objectives is essential to any subject recruitment effort and all the more important when discussing a study with African Americans, who may be wary about participating in research because of the legacy of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. In that clinical trial, conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama, US Public Health Service investigators did not treat African-American study participants suffering from syphilis after it became known that penicillin could cure the disease."
"I make it a priority to keep my research subjects fully informed about their progress at every stage of the study," said Dr. Hudson. "Because PEARL research protocols are so clearly spelled out, it's easy for practitioner-investigators to explain each step of the process to study participants. One patient in my analgesics study, who works in clinical research, found the process so well organized that she told me, ‘You guys really have everything together.'"
Participating in the study has prompted Dr. Hudson to change some of his pain control recommendations. "Because the data I gathered show that many of my patients are doing fine with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a basic nonsteroidal analgesic, I'm less likely to prescribe a narcotic for patients who have had basic operative procedures.
"Working on this study," concluded Dr. Hudson, "has enabled me to contribute to a valuable new resource of evidence-based data on pain management."
* In 2005, NYUCD received a $26.7 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to establish a regional practice-based research network, PEARL (Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning)