Super Bowl Champion Michael Clayton has stepped up to address the topic of diversity in clinical trials generally, and specifically engage in the community to drive more awareness and activation around Alzheimer’s disease. African Americans are twice as likely to fall to Alzheimer’s disease yet people of color are rarely involved with clinical trials. After an incredibly successful career (national college championship LSU and Superbowl with NY Giants), Clayton is keenly aware of the beating his body, including his brain, has taken. That Alzheimer’s could very well afflict him personally, not only because of his genetics and chosen profession but also the fact that there is a history of dementia, and he strongly suspects Alzheimer’s, directly in his family. Clayton is fully aware that the odds are higher for him to develop this menacing neurodegenerative disease that robs people of their most important possession, their memory. The awareness of this scary reality could force some into a fear-driven existence starring denial. Not Mr. Clayton–a star takes a big step forward and raises a critically important topic: health care in minority communities and the need for awareness, activation, and engagement.
Recently, WMC ActionNews 5 in Memphis picked up on Mr. Clayton who has been activated and is now engaged in making others aware of the dangers of Alzheimer’s disease in the African American community. As his past glory days winning football championships are still crystal clear, someday those memories may unfortunately go away as both his grandparents suffered from dementia that he suspects was Alzheimer’s disease. Despite glory, fame and money, all would be traded in for more time and shared memory with family.
USF’s Amanda Smith, MD, knows something about this topic. The Director of Clinical Research at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and professor Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences USF Health Morsani College of Medicine certainly is aware that at least 90% of participants in NIH-funded trials are non-Hispanic whites while few African Americans get involved. Yet Black people are at far greater risk to fall to Alzheimer’s disease and, according to Dr. Smith, “We know that there are a lot more people of color with Alzheimer’s disease than come to memory clinics and participate in clinical trials.”
Engaged Stage Partnered with Alzheimer’s Association
Clayton has the clout, connections and money to not have to think about these sort of things and rather, just hang out on one of the Florida’s many golf course with other wealthy retirees, but he has a conscious, driven in part by a very personal connection to his grandparents. A humble activist for greater involvement in finding Alzheimer’s cures, he is fully engaged now, connecting with the Alzheimer’s Association to be a liaison with the community; in 2020, he signed up to be the event chair for “The Walk to the End Alzheimer’s” held at Raymond James Stadium and he is also spearheading outreach for more involvement of minorities in Alzheimer’s research. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 threw a curveball to all for Alzheimer’s-related events, such as one that was planned for this past March 31 at the London Heights British Pub in Tampa, but the activity moved to the digital arena and when it’s safe, the physical events will proceed.
Getting African American & Minority Engagement
USF’s Dr. Smith and other experts suggest mistrust of research goes way back in the African American community to abuses during the Tuskegee Syphilis Trials. TrialSite News’ survey of African Americans and clinical research can also help shine a light not only on African American perspective on clinical trials but also some surprising takeaways.
Call to Action: To search for Alzheimer’s trials, TrialSite News now features on the home page of the portal and the Alzheimer’s Association Trial Match www.alz.org is a place to check studies. The Alzheimer’s Association website has various sections for African Americans and tool kits for minority engagement including Hispanics. For industry sponsors, Dr. Amanda Smith is a recognized expert in Alzheimer’s that TrialSite News has covered previously.