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Health & Science, New York

Precision Medicine and the Haitian-American Community

By  Naeisha Rose

Little Haiti, Brooklyn

Precision medicine is on its way to becoming the medical treatment of the future, but people of color may get left out of it completely to the detriment of their health.

To rectify this, the Maranatha French Church of SDA, a prominent Haitian-American church in St. Albans, held a presentation by All of Us, a research group that wants to close the gap in how people of color are aided by the medical community.

The idea behind precision medicine is to come up with a drug protocol that works with an individual of a particular background and environment as opposed to using current medicine that only uses research from white males over 60, according to Carol Roye, an Associate Dean for Scholarship at Pace University. By getting the biological makeup of people from varying ethnic backgrounds, genders and settings medicine could be better personalized for distinct groups or individuals.

“You might find that certain medications for diabetes may be very helpful to this population and some of them might not be,” according to Roye. “They would have no way of knowing that unless they had this database and tried the different medications on people of Haitian descent.”

Conducting the study are nurses from The American Association of Colleges of Nursing in conjunction with Pace University’s Lienhard School of Nursing in Manhattan with a $20,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, and their goal is to get one million samples from different populations.

Organizers of the precision medicine All of Us presentation. Photo Credit: Naeisha Rose

“I was talking yesterday to a woman from Haiti who was there and every night she was taking Advil for eight days when she wasn’t feeling well,” said Roye on July 13. “When she came back [to New York] and her doctor took her blood test, he told her she had kidney failure. Her doctor told her to stop taking the Advil and her condition started to reverse. She wasn’t even taking too much. If we finish this study, something like that could be prevented.”

Helping to spread the word at the church was Jean Chris Romulus, the executive director of Heal Haiti, a non-profit that encourages young adults to get into healthcare to help save lives.

Romulus learned about the research being done at Pace from Heal Haiti founder Gretha Fievre, an educator at Pace and prominent leader at her church.

“Pace wanted an organization to include African-American people and it was easy for them to see my group always working to help the Haitian community and to see Gretha as a teacher at the institution to help do the outreach,” said Romulus. “We did a media blast and reached about 1,200 people and offered that service to the American Association of Colleges.”

Leading the presentation was Rick Garcia, the Director of Nursing Policy at The American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“The All of Us research program is open to interested individuals to reflect the rich diversity of America,” said Garcia. “Participants will be partners in the program.”

Data from the program will be accessible to volunteers over the course of the 10 years of research and be protected from pharmaceutical companies and other organizations and used strictly for research purposes when it comes to future preventative care and precision medical treatment.

“Fight disease and improve the health of future generations,” said Garcia. “Ensure that your community is included in the studies that may lead to new understandings and new treatments. Be apart of a movement to make our healthcare more precise and more personal to be more effective.”

Minorities currently make up 38 percent of the United States and by 2060 are expected to be 56 percent of the population, but only participate in 10 percent of clinical trials, according to Garcia’s presentation.

“Right now we probably have no data on Haitian-Americans,” said Roye. “We can’t prescribe preventive [care] measures that would be good for this community without the data.”

Maranatha, which is located at 173-04 Linden Blvd., is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a church from July 20 through July 28.

Heal Haiti has trained and certified over 150 nurses in St. Marc, Haiti and currently has three nurses going to nursing school from their scholarship program.


Naeisha Rose

Naeisha Rose

Naeisha Rose is a multimedia journalist and graduate of the Arts & Culture and Broadcast programs at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has experience working on independent short films, short documentaries, reality television shows, talk and web series as a Casting Associate, 1st AD and Production Assistant. She is a freelance writer with photography, voice over, social media, video production and video editing skills. She has worked as a General Assignment Reporter/Photojournalist for TimesLedger Newspapers, a Book Reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a Freelance Writer for LatinTrends Magazine.
Naeisha Rose
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Jul. 28, 2019

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