About Science and Research with All of Us – Part Three!

May 20, 2021

Dr. Bashir Easter

Fresh from sponsoring this week’s Community Immunity Town Hall on the V100 Facebook page, we delve into diversity in research with Bashir Easter, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison All of Us team at the Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee. The Town Hall was entitled, “Science, Research and Communities of Color.”

Milwaukee Times: Dr. Easter, the Town Hall was an important conversation, and you had such wonderful panelists. What impact do you hope it had on the community?

Dr. Bashir Easter: I hope it reminded the community that African Americans have a rich history in science and research. I hope the community now understands why being a part of research is important, even with the many reasons that led to mistrust. I hope it inspired a generation of citizen scientists from our community to embark on research. Our leader, Gina Green-Harris, Dr. Abiola Keller from Marquette University and Dr. Olayinka Shianbola from the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy are all researchers who care about the community. They talked about their local research. We were thrilled to also have Victoria Baptiste on the panel. As a great-granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, her grandfather was Henrietta Lacks’ eldest son. They are at the table advocating for communities of color to be a part of research, despite how doctors took advantage of their matriarch.

Milwaukee Times: How is the Lacks family advocating for communities of color?

Henrietta Lacks

Dr. Bashir Easter: Henrietta Lacks’ HeLa cells were used in the groundbreaking SARS-CoV-2 virus study, so HeLa cells are paving the way for COVID-19 breakthroughs. Also, the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act of 2019 was signed into law on December 18, 2020. The legislation was introduced on March 28, 2019, by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the House and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in the Senate. It calls for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete a study that reviews actions taken by federal agencies to address barriers to participation in federally funded cancer clinical trials by populations traditionally underrepresented in such trials. The Lacks family was at a recent virtual engagement meeting of All of Us, so they are helping to drive positive advances in research.

Milwaukee Times: Since All of Us invited the family to this nationwide virtual meeting, the program must care about diversity.

Dr. Bashir Easter: Diversity is one of the core values of the All of Us Research Program. All of Us is asking lots of people to join the program. Participants are from different races, ethnicities, age groups, and regions of the country. They are also diverse in gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, disability, and health status. By studying data from a diverse group of people, researchers can learn more about what makes people sick or keeps them healthy. What researchers learn today could lead to better care for all of us in the future.

Milwaukee Times: Thank you, Dr. Easter. Congratulations on a successful Town Hall this week. What will you have for us next week?

Dr. Bashir Easter: Next week, we’ll talk about DNA and the genetic return of results with All of Us.

Do your own research about the All of Us Research Program nationally, by going to www.joinallofus.org, visiting our All of Us MKE Facebook page or calling (414) 882-1376.