Pharmaceutical company Takeda has announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment that is aimed at furthering health equity in New Orleans. Through a grant provided to top HBCU Xavier University of Louisiana, the program will support the development of a technical research and exchange center (T-REX) that will accelerate Xavier’s health informatics, research findings, and interventions at the intersection of science, clinical practice, and data. To learn more about the grant and the ambitious goals of the collaboration partners, Outsourcing-Pharma spoke with:
- Anne McCall, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana
- Lauren Powell, MPA, PhD, vice president of US health equity and community wellness at Takeda
OSP: Could you please share how Xavier and Takeda came to work together? Have the two worked together on any projects before?
LP: We chose to partner specifically with Xavier University of Louisiana on this initiative given their long-standing history of improving the community of New Orleans, and their trustworthiness within the community to be able to understand the need to make a real impact and drive sustainable change.
Xavier’s geographic location also represents a region of great unmet need in healthcare. Louisiana has sat at or near the bottom of nearly every measurable health metric, ranking well below the national average for years. Currently, they are ranked 50th in health outcomes ratings. New Orleans’ national health ranking has improved over the last decade, but health disparities among the city’s minority groups continue to fall below national averages in life expectancy, including higher rates of adverse childhood experiences, food insecurity, premature death, chronic and preventable illnesses.
While Takeda has not directly worked with Xavier previously, this partnership represents the first of many multi-year collaborations that centers our commitment to health equity in theory and in action. This is the beginning of long-term, multi-pronged partnerships with trusted organizations that are experts in community engagement and wellness for marginalized populations.
OSP: Please talk about some of the features and accomplishments that make Xavier an appealing partner.
LP: Xavier University of Louisiana is a unique partner for Takeda as they can expand and deepen our health equity efforts regionally and help make progress toward achieving community wellness in New Orleans. Xavier stood out as an obvious partner for Takeda given that they are ranked among the top HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the nation and produce more African American students who graduate from medical schools each year than any other university in the U.S. The university is also ranked fourth nationally for moving African American students out of poverty.
In addition to being a leader in higher learning for African-Americans, their school of public health has a Master of Public Health degree program focused exclusively on health equity. We recognize Xavier as a historical incubator for future Black and Brown health professionals and as a community pillar for change in Louisiana.
OSP: Please tell us about the nation’s history of health care and research inequity, and the impact it has had on the country’s disadvantaged/marginalized people.
LP: Within the US health system, there is a great need for truth and reconciliation in the ways we acknowledge both the scientific and medical gains that have been made over time. There have been harmful ways that these gains were made, which has contributed to the understandable medical mistrust by Black, Indigenous, and other diverse communities of color. Institutional implicit bias among healthcare providers and pharmaceutical organizations has eroded the trust of patients on a national level.
We know that patients’ health and well-being are inextricably tied to their geography, finances, education, age, race, ethnicity, gender, and orientation. This is why we must start with purposeful listening, understanding, and reflecting on the needs of those who make up the diverse communities that have been most impacted by systemic injustices to build trust and empower the best outcomes for everyone, no matter their circumstances.
Dismantling the roots of oppression that keep people and communities from achieving wellness is the cornerstone of progressing health equity initiatives. By partnering with communities, our goal is for Takeda to be a genuine, trusted, and collaborative co-creator who delivers for all patients, and helps blaze the trail for an equitable and sustainable health care system in the US.
OSP: Please tell us about your vision for the T-REX program.
AM: The Technical and Research Exchange is envisioned to be a Center where data lives, information and ideas are shared, and collaboration is fostered. This includes the expansion of access to data sources like Ochsner Health, Center for Medicare and Medicaid, and National Center for Health Statistics.
The Center will be a welcoming environment not only to nurture new faculty but also to provide experiential learning opportunities to students who are research novices. It would be a place for fostering, ideas, resources, and effort and a place where research results can be disseminated in actionable ways, i.e., policy change, program development, new models of health care, health prevention, and health promotion.
OSP: Can you tell us about the research talent who will be working on the program?
AM: Researchers utilizing the T-REX Center will include social and clinical scientists from pharmacy, the physician assistant program, public health, psychology, and sociology, and other experts who explore and examine social, economic, and political determinants of health.
OSP: Then, please tell us how this collaborative effort will tackle eliminating disparities, elevating equity, and creating opportunity at various levels.
LP: Takeda’s multi-million-dollar investment will support the development of a technical research and exchange center at Xavier, known as T-REX, to further health equity efforts in New Orleans and focus on the overall improvement of health outcomes for disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
The main program components will include the development of a health informatics and research program, the creation of curriculum to help destigmatize participation in clinical trials, support for post-doctoral and graduate fellowships focused on health equity advancement, and the expansion of community outreach networks. These focused efforts will move the health equity needle in meaningful ways across Louisiana to make significant progress through equity-powered systems of change for historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
The ultimate measure of success for this partnership will be determined by a number of factors, including increased participation in clinical trials, enhanced health informatics methodologies, development of community-focused sustainable care models that address social determinants of health, and increased diversity and health equity expertise of post-doctoral and public health graduates.
OSP: Does the collaboration have any specific goals or timelines you could share?
AM: It is expected that T-REX will be fully operational in three years. The first year’s work will center around hiring T-REX staff and purchasing the equipment and software that is needed. In addition, an inventory of data sources and potential validated surveys will be identified for possible purchase.
Once the equipment and software are installed, the use of T-REX will be promoted to students and faculty researchers. It is expected that in Year 2, a faculty and research student development program will be designed and implemented that focuses on the use of T-REX for specific research projects.
Once T-REX is fully operational, in addition to the programs already implemented, the Center will host a Research Showcase, support student summer research training, and a student research competition.
OSP: Anything to add?
AM: It is our goal that the T-REX Center will expand the research capacity at Xavier by creating a space for a cohesive research agenda that centers around the determinants of health which results in a coalescence around the issues that plaque New Orleans and our broader Louisiana communities. The establishment of T-REX aids in that long-term effort.
LP: Our commitment to health equity is rooted in partnerships, like this one, that exemplify our community-centered approach and align with Takeda’s core values to put patients first and provide safe, accessible healthcare for everyone. We’re very excited to kick off this purposeful collaboration and learn from the true experts on how to build trust and lay the foundation to advance health equity for generations to come.