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The Importance of Diversity in the Medical Research Workforce with Esther Krofah


If healthcare wants to provide the best service to its patients, it needs to encourage free speech. It means everyone has the right to raise their hand and share their thoughts regarding necessary changes. It is the only way the healthcare system can fulfill its purpose to meet patients’ needs.

In today’s Real World Talk podcast episode, our host Zoe Li welcomes Esther Krofah, the Executive Director at FasterCures. Esther talks about the lessons they as an organization have learned during the pandemic. She also discusses the importance of real world-data and says, although all studies start in a controlled environment, authentic results come when trials are applied to real-world settings.

Esther and Zoe touch upon diversity and conclude that it is essential in all the stages of medical research. Not only do we need patients from different populations and backgrounds, but we also need diversity in the medical research workforce.


[00:13] Introduction — Our host Zoe Li welcomes Esther Krofah, the Executive Director at FasterCures.

[01:03] Esther’s professional background — Esther has seen healthcare from multiple perspectives and lenses throughout her career. Prior to joining FasterCures, she spent some time in the private sector, working at GSK. She was also focused on issues like the Affordable Care Act – State and Federal level. She is currently the Executive Director at FasterCures, and she dedicates her time to accelerating biomedical research and innovation. Our guest also worked with life sciences and device companies in management consulting.

[03:35] What have we learned in the pandemic? — According to Esther, even though we didn’t come out of the pandemic yet, COVID-19 has influenced how healthcare organizations look at collaborations, practices that have enabled the acceleration of product development, and real-world data.

[06:58] Product development depends on data collected beyond traditional clinical trials — Although every study begins in a controlled setting, to determine whether a product is beneficial to patients, it is necessary to perform clinical trials first and then apply them in a real-world environment.

[11:51] Individuals and organizations working in healthcare have acknowledged the power of collaboration — One of the most important lessons COVID-19 gave us was to respect and nurture partnerships. It is a fact that competitiveness will always exist, but if the organization has benefited from a collaboration, it will not give it up going forward.

[14:57] Patients’ needs come first — Organizations such as FasterCures focus on bringing all the relevant factors together. They need patients, disease organizations, and foundations. Regulators also need to be at the same table if they want to hear what the priorities are. Organizations within the medical ecosystem must unite in order to achieve the primary goal – meeting patients’ needs.

[18:13] Moving from equality to equity — One of the most common issues in healthcare is diversity. Unfortunately, the unequal representation of different populations leads to inadequate or unexciting healthcare options for some community members. Therefore, as Esther says, one of their goals is to ensure every group is represented in medical studies according to the objective need.

[21:50] The importance of diversity in the research workforce — Getting the answers from different populations is one part of high-quality medical research. Ensuring diversity in the workforce, meaning the people performing the study should be, we may say, informal representatives of different groups, is another crucial part. Only when everyone’s voice is heard will medical studies fulfill their purpose.

[25:55] The easy-to-collect data is representative – true or false? — According to Esther, it is not entirely true because, as mentioned earlier, only diverse results create a broader and realistic picture of what’s going on in healthcare.

[28:22] Patients themselves can be that driver to bring everyone together — If the community sees a need for a change, anyone has the right to raise their hand and ask, “Ok, what can we do differently?” The medical ecosystem often deals with these kinds of dilemmas. But, in many cases, patients were the driving force of the change.

Key Points

  • The pandemic was a strict teacher. These past 18+ months have been challenging, but we’ve all learned valuable lessons. According to Esther, COVID-19 has taught them the importance of collaboration and real-world data. They have also witnessed the acceleration of product development and how the pandemic impacted racial and ethnic minorities. ”We also have seen how it’s prioritized health equity for our broader healthcare ecosystem going forward and thinking about one of the new kinds of investments that we need to sustain those changes.”
  • There is significant power in collaboration. One of the most crucial lessons healthcare organizations have adopted during the pandemic is the importance of partnership. Although collaboration helped many survive tough times, some believe that no one will want to continue this practice once we go back to normal. Our guest disagrees. ”I think the key is that once you’ve learned something, it’s hard to unlearn it. Once you’ve worked with partners and you’ve built trust, that trust can be sustained in other initiatives and other efforts as we go forward.”
  • There is an assumption that the easy-to-collect data is representative. Our guest says that’s not entirely true because medical data researchers usually collect data from patients who are part of the formal healthcare system. But what about those who are not? We know that many patients fall outside of the traditional healthcare system. So this assumption that easy to access data sets are representative may not be the right assumption. What steps do we need to take not only to ensure the quality and the rigor within the data that we’re collecting but that patients are not inadvertently left out? Even as we start to use that data, polish that data, harmonize it, and use it for research purposes.”