Clemson alumna returns to connect South Carolina rural communities with clinical trials
With health care advancing exponentially, new technologies and treatments are being tested every day in the United States, allowing clinical trial participants to benefit from access to new and innovative therapies. According to research conducted by Rural and Remote Health, when communities gain access to clinical trials, their overall health outcomes improve.
Six of the top ten causes of death in the United States listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are chronic, preventable health conditions.
Housed in the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS), Clemson Rural Health (CRH) works every day — through a variety of clinical and preventative strategies — to reduce preventable deaths and hospitalizations caused by heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease in rural and underserved communities. CRH’s existing structure creates opportunities for adopting new strategies that can enhance these efforts, including the initiation of a clinical trial program.
The proliferation of clinical trials in and around the state has not benefited all South Carolinians equally. Rural residents are underrepresented in the recruitment process and therefore not represented in the research data and findings. In addition, lack of enrollment accounted for “55 percent of all Phase I–IV clinical trials that were terminated, suspended or discontinued during 2008–2017,” making it more difficult for life-saving discoveries to be approved for public use (National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, 2022). Clemson Rural Health hopes to reverse these trends by integrating decentralized access to clinical trials into its primary care clinics and mobile health units.
By working with two contract research organizations, the Precia Group and the Guardian Research Network, Clemson Rural Health will be uniquely positioned to host trials pertinent to South Carolinians and ensure its research processes are efficient and sustainable. This strategy is in lockstep with the third pillar of the University’s newly unveiled strategic plan, Clemson Elevate, to transform lives statewide and beyond.
The initiative will be led by Katie Poplin, Clemson Rural Health’s associate director for clinical research. While Poplin joined the CRH team in August 2023, that was not her first connection to Clemson University. As a two-time alumna, she began her undergraduate experience in what is now the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. Following graduation, she pursued her passion for research at the Center for Integrative Oncology Survivorship at Prisma Health Upstate. Shortly after, she joined the first cohort to complete the Graduate Certificate in Clinical and Translational Research program and went on to obtain a master’s in applied health research and evaluation methods from the Department of Public Health Sciences in 2020. Poplin has since held various positions on study teams, in research compliance and with industry sponsors.
“Even as a Georgia native, my Clemson Experience made me fall in love with the state of South Carolina,” says Poplin. “I believe in the value of clinical research for rural and underserved communities, and I am overjoyed to be back on campus to bring my expertise to the Clemson Rural Health mission.”
Clemson Rural Health will be one of the first organizations in the state to adopt the decentralized clinical trial (DCT) model based on the new guidance released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The initiative hopes to successfully integrate clinical research into its fixed, mobile and remote assets and support its first trials by early 2024.
Clemson Rural Health is a part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, a 21st-century land-grant college joining together a unique combination of schools and departments: Communication, Nursing, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Political Science, Psychology, Public Health Sciences and Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. These areas have distinctive characteristics and missions – all joined together by a common thread of service to people and communities. For more information, visit ClemsonRuralHealth.org.
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