Innovation, Adaptability and Inclusion in All Realms of Health Professions

by MPH - MSBH Alumna Joyce Nortey

Joyce Nortey

There are two distinct principles that continue to stand out from my time at USF while I was completing the MPH-MSBH program: 1) the slogan “change the world from here” and 2) the importance of adaptation through innovation, continuous program evaluation and quality improvement initiatives. As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming more apparent each day that as health professionals, innovation and adaptability will continue to be part of our new normal.

Over three years ago, I made the switch from pharmaceutical drug development based clinical research to digital health based clinical research with the intention of being part of the change associated with ensuring clinical research was more inclusive, accessible and patient-focused. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies mobile health, health information technology (IT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine all as categories that fall within the realm of digital health and has stated that digital health tools have the vast potential to improve our ability to accurately diagnose and treat disease and to enhance the delivery of health care for the individual. As Sr. Director, Clinical Operations at Evidation Health, I manage a variety of decentralized digital health studies, commonly referred to as virtual clinical studies. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the innovative nature of digital health based virtual clinical studies has served as a safe and accessible way for clinical study participants to provide valuable public-health data and insights, all from the comfort of their own homes – ultimately increasing and improving access. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of innovation, adaptability and inclusion in all realms of health professions and has also continued to highlight the issues and needs associated with providing access to vulnerable populations. As a recommendation, the FDA issued a guidance document recommending the implementation of digital health tools when feasible to assure the safety of participants during the pandemic (FDA Guidance on Conduct of Clinical Trials during COVID-19 Public Health Emergency). With recommendations from the FDA and other public health agencies, we continue to see the normalization of digital health tools such as telehealth and telemedicine being widely adopted.

As we all continue to adjust to the changes associated with being in health professions, I encourage everyone reading this to continue to be inspired to use innovative methods to improve the traditionally non-inclusive and sometimes non-accessible world of healthcare. For me personally, I regularly ask myself “how can I change the world in my current space with my current resources?” As a clinical researcher, my answer and continuous plan is to continue focusing on finding innovative, culturally competent ways to ensure there is a spotlight put on the lack of racial diversity within clinical studies and to ensure access and inclusiveness. To read about some ways my team continues to adapt our methods to make clinical research more inclusive, check out the blog: Achievement Studies Unveils More Inclusive Questions about Achiever’s Backgrounds and Identities