Dr Durant Profile

Raised in a home that emphasized higher education and professional achievements, Dr. Raegan Durant was continually surrounded by a family that motivated and supported him to pursue his dreams. From an early age, Durant had already begun talking to and making connections with local Montgomery doctors. This exposure to the profession allowed him to learn about the longitudinal relationships found in medicine, most commonly as a primary care physician. By the time he left for college, Durant knew his passion had laid somewhere in medicine.

Early in his life, having had strong professional models, made it possible for Durant to, as he says, “focus not on whether I was going to college, but more granular variables along the lines of where I was going to go to school.” Furthermore, as family and life experiences shape how people mature and grow into adults, so does the impact of geography. Growing up in Alabama, a state which had the public’s eye during the civil rights movement and was at the center of slavery, gave Dr. Durant a unique perspective on inequity—a common factor in health disparities.

For anyone looking to enhance his/her career, Dr. Durant stresses, “I can’t overemphasize the importance of mentorship. It might not always come from one individual; it might be multiple individuals that each serve a specific purpose. But, certainly, when you can find someone willing to spend time with you and put effort into helping you achieve your goals, nurture those relationships. They’re invaluable.” To help, the School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion offers UAB Connect—a place where faculty can register to become mentors or underrepresented students can connect with mentors with similar backgrounds to their own.

Reflecting on his 16-year career, Dr. Durant appreciated his field’s ability to affect people’s lives on a population level. Over the years, his mindset and love of life-long learning pushed the boundaries of his career and the field of health disparities. Unwilling to settle into a job that was solely based on a static routine, Durant used the inherent nature of scientific discovery—both in research and clinical medicine— to fuel his healthy “fear of monotony and complacency.”

As a life-long student of medicine, Dr. Durant views every venture, even unsuccessful ones, as a chance to learn. In his example of grant writing, Durant says, “You very quickly learn that to get funding, you have to submit grant applications—and, those applications don’t always get funded. So, you have to be very sanguine about both the positive and negative feedback that needs to be filtered.” By taking feedback and analyzing it to determine how one should proceed, Dr. Durant can take rejection and turn it into an opportunity.

Having seen Dr. Durant’s strive for excellence directly, Drs. Carlos Estrada and Seth Landefeld devised an idea to nominate Durant for the Herbert W. Nickens Minority Health and Representation in Medicine Award. Named after a pioneer in efforts to champion health care workforce diversity as well as health care equity, the Nickens Award is nationally awarded each year to a member of the National Society of General Internal Medicine who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to cultural diversity in medicine or to improving minority health.

Having watched this honor be awarded to “people who are giants in my eyes,” Durant adds, “when I first found out they wanted to nominate me, that in itself was an honor…when I found out that I won, I was truly floored and excited—both of which were matched with a degree of humility.”

Throughout his work in minority participation in clinical research, Dr. Durant has been able to see a problem from multiple vantage points. Previously, investigators solely focused on participant-related barriers to study enrollment. Focusing only on one angle creates a perception that the potential minority participant is the sole problem. In Durant’s research, he considers both the participant’s and investigator’s perspectives—giving him a holistic view of the process. Questions such as, “Where are they [investigators] doing recruitment?” or “What types of studies are being conducted?” are just a couple of questions Durant addresses in his investigations.

Recently, Dr. Durant has been published in a high-impact cancer journal. In this instance, Durant was able to analyze a qualitative data set from five different National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers that included interviews from 91 principal investigators, referring providers, cancer center leaders, and research staff. Unique to this data set, the respondents worked with a diverse patient and study populations including African Americans, Latinos, and some multi-national Asian populations. In another case, Durant used the same data set to publish his findings on a hot button topic—stereotyping and bias in recruitment for clinical trials.

Coming off the heels of such a thought-provoking paper and at the crossroads of winning a prestigious national honor and navigating a global pandemic, Dr. Durant finds the world and his responsibilities are still pushing forward. Currently, Durant is helping to lead the COVID-19 response in-person at Cooper Green while simultaneously seeing patients via telehealth. But, as life returns to normal, Durant will not be the type to rest on his laurels. With plans to continue researching minority participation in clinical trials, Durant will also look into disparities in cardiovascular disease outcomes—using this opportunity to test how multi-level interventions can help the audience adopt practices and drive successful results.