Michigan Medicine Research Study, M-REACH, Promoting Diversity

October 23, 2020  //  FOUND IN: News

Dr. Cristen Willer has worked hard to lead her team of researchers, biostatisticians, and students toward a culture of inclusion and diverse representation in research.  The creation of this project  is no different.  The Michigan Racial Equality and Community Health (MREACH) Project is a biobank that started recruitment in 2018. The goal is to establish a racially diverse biobank, to help drive future genetic research towards studying diseases that disproportionately affect minorities and ensuring that future prevention strategies are optimized for minority individuals.

Increasing the diversity in our studies is crucial.  Why is increasing diversity helpful to the entire population?  We list a few reasons below:

  • Rates and mechanisms of disease can be different by ancestry (e.g. hypertension, kidney disease, triglyceride levels, liver disease)
  • Genetic variants are often different by ancestry
  • Disease-causing genetic variation can be extremely rare (only one person in the world) but can guide us towards drug therapies that are effective and well tolerated by all.  
  • Greater diversity equals a greater chance of uncovering new disease mechanisms
  • Disease prevention for all requires studying peoples of all races and ethnicities.  Risk estimation is highly ethnic-specific.
  • Opportunity to engage and train racially diverse staff and faculty in recruitment
  • Science and clinical translation

As of March 2020, 87% of participants in M-REACH self-report as African American or Black.  9% self-report as Caucasian or White.  The remaining 2% self report as Other (Asian, Middle Eastern, of Hispanic descent).  Allowing participants to self-report decreases discrimination between our research recruiters and participants.  

Dr. Willer’s efforts to create a culture of inclusion and diverse representation in research precedes MREACH. Dr. Willer is also the Principal Investigator of the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Project (CHIP).  In 2015, CHIP began implementing strategies to increase diversity within the biobank.  The percentage of racially diverse participants went from 5.5% in 2015 to 15.6% in 2020.  

We work closely with physicians and listen to patients. We are always willing to expand our research goals to include health issues important to diverse groups.

M-REACH aims to enable large scale genetic studies of individuals of different races and ethnicities to better understand genetic variants and epidemiology underlying human disease, with a goal of preventing disease.  We are establishing M-REACH as a holding location for biological samples (i.e., DNA) and clinical data  from research  participants.  We are interested in volunteers that may have a history of cardiovascular disease, other disease, and healthy participants with no known disease. 

If you are interested in participating in MREACH, please  please contact Bethany Klunder at kbethany@med.umich.edu or visit our University of Michigan Health Research site at: https://umhealthresearch.org/#studies/HUM00146997

Website: https://umhealthresearch.org/#studies/HUM00146997