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Change Is Coming

Change is Coming. It’s About Time, and We are Ready.


Having worked at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies for almost 25 years, I've seen first-hand the commitment my company has had to positive change. Because of this, I’m excited to continue this path in my new role as Associate Director, Clinical Operations Lead in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in clinical trials at Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. I will work, as Janssen and Johnson & Johnson have long done, to ensure all patients—regardless of race, gender, age and other diverse factors—will have the opportunity to take part in the search for new treatment options.

So, why are diversity, equity, and inclusion important to me? It impacts me at many levels—as a Hispanic, a female and a mother. I belong to special groups who traditionally have not possessed, and in many ways, still do not possess, an equal voice and representation in our society. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have felt an even greater sense of urgency to make sure that all people feel that they are being heard.

I know what that feeling is like; I've lived that experience. My parents are from the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. They grew up under a cruel and violent dictatorship. During this period, anyone who dissented from the politics of the government was kidnapped, imprisoned, forced to work in labour camps, or killed. Beyond political dissidents, those considered lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people and Haitians were also targeted by the government's secret police force. It has been said that more than 50,000 died during this period, including my great uncle, Ramon Vazquez Rivera, who was imprisoned and killed. His body was never recovered.

My parents decided to immigrate to the United States to ensure their children never had to experience the same violence and fear they lived through every day. My personal and family history has taught me the importance of accepting others, regardless of their perceived difference, and that we all have civil rights that must be respected. I've carried out my career with this focus on ensuring that ALL are seen and present and have a voice that is heard.

It is especially important to continue working toward this ongoing goal as we close out this Hispanic Heritage Month. This celebration originally started as a weeklong event in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration to a month to include the National Independence Days of Latin American Countries. The goal of this celebration is to ensure awareness of the diverse Hispanic cultures and the historic struggles for social justice and equality of this population.

And while we've certainly come a long way, we must also note that these struggles are not yet over. Hispanics still face stark disparities in healthcare including:

  • Fifty percent of Hispanics will develop diabetes in their lifetime, and they're 50 percent more likely to die from it than White people1.
  • Among US citizens, Hispanics face the highest rate of asthma2.
  • Hispanic women are 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 20 percent more likely to die from cervical cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic White women3.
  • For Hispanic/Latino men, prostate cancer presents a major concern, and they face barriers to proper screening, such as lack of educational materials and screening in a non-native language4.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics, yet few studies have described cancer mortality burden by specific Hispanic groups nationwide5.

The solution begins where all treatments do: Clinical Research.

Janssen believes that, to grow, innovate, and advance human health, we must understand the diversity of our patients and reflect them in our therapeutic solutions and innovations, which all begin with clinical research.

We are bringing creative approaches and tailored solutions together to address barriers to entry and create more diverse and equitable clinical trials. And our efforts, just like our treatments, must be customized to meet the needs of the communities we serve. We strive to learn more about the Hispanic community so we can do a better job at being supportive across their journey, and ensuring their voices are heard.

Working to achieve this goal, we have partnered with UnidosUS to deliver bilingual English- and Spanish-language webinars, expanding outreach to different demographics within the U.S. Latinx community to drive the importance of increasing diverse representation in clinical trials. We are also working diligently throughout the clinical trial recruitment process to offer customized site support including tailoring educational resources by translating them to Spanish language.

Through our Research Includes Me program, we are increasing access, education, and awareness to create more inclusive and diverse clinical trials that change the trajectory of disease, address disparities in care and create a better future for our Hispanic patients.

Change is coming, and now is the time for action. I can't wait to get started!

October 15, 2021

1 In focus: Identifying and addressing health disparities among hispanics. The Commonwealth Fund. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/2018/dec/focus-identifying-and-addressing-health-disparities-among-hispanics. Published December 27, 2018.

2 Most Recent National Asthma Data. Centers for Disease Control Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/most_recent_national_asthma_data.htm. Accessed September 8, 2020. 

3 Cancer and Hispanic Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=61.

4 Prostate Cancer in U.S. Hispanic Men. Prostate Cancer Foundation website. https://www.pcf.org/blog/prostate-cancer-in-u-s-hispanic-men/. Published October 13, 2020.

5 Zamora SM, Pinheiro PS, Gomez SL, et al. Disaggregating Hispanic American cancer Mortality burden by Detailed Ethnicity. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. https://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/28/8/1353. Published August 1, 2019. Accessed September 22, 2021.