Healthcare professionals in San Antonio, Texas often encounter a great deal of Hispanic and African American patients who present with orthopedic conditions. Despite treating a considerable volume of patients of these ethnicities, physicians notice that even the most acclaimed orthopedic journals do not have enough published studies that focus on these ethnic groups.
Dr. Boris A. Zelle, an assistant professor of orthopadic trauma surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, and an orthopedic trauma surgeon at UT Medicine San Antonio, looked into this lack of representation of these minority groups in research on orthopedics. He partnered with his good friend, fellow orthopedic surgeon, and esteemed researcher, Mohit Bhandari, M.D., Ph.D., the current research chair of muscoskeletal trauma and surgical outcomes at McMaster University in Canada.
A comprehensive and analytical re-evaluation of the most relevant orthopedic research from the past four years led to Dr. Zelle’s own study, entitled, “Lack of Diversity in Orthopaedic Trials Conducted in the United States,” which is currently available in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
Dr. Zelle recently noted that as an educator as well as a surgeon, it is his professional duty to continuously reevaluate relevant research and updates on his speciality, explaining that ever since he opened his practice in San Antonio three years ago, he has taken an interest in patients from minority groups, realizing that nearly all of the studies available overlooked racial factors.
According to Zelle, it is of utmost importance that future studies include minority groups such as Hispanics and African Americans because health conditions’ prognoses and treatments take race into account. A better understanding would lead to better evidence-based patient care.
Dr. Zelle and Dr. Bhandari sought the help of Dr. Jeremy S. Somerson, an orthopaedic surgery resident; Clayton Vaughan, M.D., a medical school graduate, and Christopher S. Smith, M.Sc., from McMaster University. Their research team critiqued 158 randomized controlled trials conducted between the years 2008 and 2011, and currently produced in 32 journals.
Their findings revealed that, indeed, minority groups have been and still are greatly underrepresented in clinical trials. When taken together, only about 4.6% of the studies’ sample populations were determined to be Hispanic and only 6.2% were African American. Those numbers are about 3.5 times smaller than the existing total Hispanic population, and about twice less than that of African Americans’ in the US.
Dr. Zelle and his team’s study emphasizes the pressing need to represent minority groups in future researches, not just in the field of orthopaedics, but across all aspects of human health. The reality is that today’s United States population is quickly becoming increasingly diverse, and that any under representation of any race could render a study inconclusive. According to Zelle, it is especially important for health facilities located in racially diverse regions, such as the UT Health Science Center, to take part in and contribute to this insufficiency, and actively seek to include a good number of minority populations in any research venture.