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The 2023 CCTS Bioethics Forum, hosted by Tuskegee University and moderated by Stephen Sodeke, PhD, MA and Joan R. Harrell, DMIN, MDIV, MS, took place on Tuesday, February 21st. The event, “Earning Trust in Community-Engaged Research,” featured an incredible panel of experts, representing an array of backgrounds and experiences: Claudia M. Hardy, MPA, Mariana Montero, MS, Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Celeste Reese Willis, MD, and Frewin Osteen.

The Forum invited discussion on trustworthiness followed by several question and answer segments. The Forum was held virtually, enabling 250 participants from across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to join. The audience represented a wide range of fields, including healthcare, community leaders, non-profit organizations, research centers, and more.

Dr. Stephen Sodeke, Resident Bioethicist at the Center for Biomedical Research and Professor of Bioethics at Tuskegee University, opened the event with reflection: “Earning community trust is critical in building mutually-healthy relationships that will improve overall health equity and outcomes across communities. This is a significant undertaking that will take moral courage to have the necessary but sometimes difficult conversations that support the process.” He then emphasized the importance of researchers and health care providers and the role they should play, quoting Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Dr. Wilkins kicked things off by exploring how researchers measure trustworthiness in their work, sharing the obvious reasoning: “How will we actually understand if we are improving trustworthiness it if we are not measuring it?” Wilkins helped create a tool that she felt matched with what she was hearing was needed from the communities she touched. Dr. Hardy then discussed the importance of community partnerships that provide everyone a seat around the table. In her research she employs trained volunteers that advocate for health issues that affect minorities. Dr. Willis and Mariana Montero provided their personal experiences working and living in the communities they serve, removing the separation that exists between clinicians and researchers and special populations. Mr. Osteen concluded the presentations with examples of authentic concern, respect, consistency, and transparency.

CCTS Engagement of Communities Program Director Clifford Kennon felt that “the highlight of the Forum was bringing a diverse group of academic researchers and community representatives together from across the CCTS Partner Network with the goal of building healthy relationships to improve health outcomes for community benefit.” Questions posed and information shared throughout this event created impactful conversations that will extend into the projects underway around the CCTS Partner Network. The CCTS is grateful to Tuskegee University, the Forum planning committee, moderators, panelists, and audience members for gathering and enabling another incredible Forum! Watch the 2023 CCTS Bioethics Forum here.
The business of 'earning trust' is a complex but important task worth addressing and resolving. We will need all the creativity that we can muster along with the will to act in order to make a difference for the sake of all of us. Dr. Stephen Sodeke

Written by Katie Bradford  | March 3, 2023