OPTIMUS program. The Outreach Program To Inspire Minority and Underrepresented Students (
OPTIMUS ) represents a summer cancer research fellowship for underrepresented high school students in San Diego. Students accepted into the program will work in cancer research labs, shadow physicians in clinic, and participate in community outreach efforts. Overall, the OPTIMUS program strives to help position our young students to become future leaders in clinical cancer care and cancer research.
Legacy Speakers (LS) Project.
Federal law requires organizations that get federal funding to provide services in languages that can be understood by everyone. California has the largest population of non-English speakers. This can be a challenge for someone who is limited English proficient (LEP). Often LEP folks experience care delays, longer hospital stays, and sub-optimal care quality. One third of U.S. hospitals fail to provide interpretation services and one fourth of hospitals that serve patients that need language services do not provide them. In research primarily, language services are provided ad hoc, or improvised by the available bilingual research personnel which can lead to issues of loss of confidentiality and potential bias given there is no measure of quality or training for this additional labor. This impacts how materials are developed, scales measure, and data analyzed. Further, LEP and minority patients are routinely excluded from important clinical trials and research due to a language barrier. A lack of minorities in research like COVID-19 vaccine studies and cancer treatments could be improved by incorporating trained bilingual researcher assistants (BiRA). Though many bilingual students are often confident in conversational speaking, they might be unsure about using language skills in a research setting. Our project goal is to identify the barriers and facilitators in this group and develop culturally and linguistically appropriate training to support legacy speakers in their language and research capacity, in addition to providing cultural and clinically competent training in research with LEP and vulnerable populations.
The Legacy Speakers (LS) Project focuses on modernizing the way research and clinical trials recruit, retain, and include diverse and vulnerable patients by identifying barriers and facilitators related to ensuring a diverse research workforce. This project is identifying students and research assistants who are legacy speakers, meaning they acquired most of their native language informally in the U.S. versus a heritage speaker who received most or all their primary education in their native tongue. We seek these individuals who have used their bilingual skills in a health care setting. We are asking them what has, or has not, worked to prepare them to bridge language barriers and improve these processes in the context of their experiences.
Recruitment, retention, and inclusion of minoritized (and aging) individuals in research, which includes those with limited English proficiency (LEP), has been a key area of improvement for high-quality and equitable care delivery frameworks including NIA, NCI, and NIMHD. Language and race concordant participation in clinical trials is key for improving treatment outcomes for the increasingly diverse population of the U.S. Dr. Melody K Schiaffino, a core faculty member of the Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research (CHEER) at UC-San Diego Moores Cancer Center, is a nationally recognized expert in the delivery of hospital language services and care delivery systems science with a special focus on LEP populations. Language access has been a passion for Dr. Schiaffino who is a bilingual and bicultural Latina immigrant scientist, this project was inspired by her work and the curiosity of an SDSU undergraduate, Kathy Vu, who sought out Dr. Schiaffino after finding out they were at the same university. Kathy reached out to Dr. Schiaffino and found that this was a shared passion. As a member of Dr. Schiaffino’s lab, Kathy and another bilingual graduate student in the Health Management and Policy MPH program at SDSU, Azka Amer, co-wrote a student grant and received funds for this project. With Dr. Schiaffino’s mentorship they and 2 other students received evidence-based professional level certification in health services interpretation through the Bridging the Gap program, an internationally recognized program that prepares interpreters for federal and national certification exams. This training will allow the students in Dr. Schiaffino’s lab to develop a pilot training based on their findings from their interviews with legacy speakers to develop a culturally and linguistically appropriate research support training to improve recruitment and retention of researchers and participants into clinical research. To our knowledge this is the first training of its kind.
The CHEER Center is matching these funds to expand the study to UCSD medical students and resident legacy speakers. Through this partnership participants will include not only students that engage in research but also medical students that have used their bilingual skills in the clinical setting. The center is a new endeavor in the UC San Diego Department of Medicine, Division of Radiation Medicine. More recently, the Legacy Speakers Project has been funded for a second round, with Dana Patterson leading the Legacy Speakers Project II and Kathy Vu now doing post-bacc research with Dr. Schiaffino having graduated with honors in May 2022. Additionally, 4 more students will be added to the certified interpreter roster for the project to prepare evidence-based training for researchers and students. We hope to propose a clinical trial to test this training among research trainees and medical students seeking to maximize their language skills in research and support improvement in making clinical trial and care more equitable.