In a recent interview with PharmaShots, Patricia Mae Doykos, Lead, Health Equity Initiative, and Director, BMS Foundation at Bristol Myers Squibb shared her views on the promotion of health equity and improvement in health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases and conditions.
- CAE is a virtual platform that convenes advocacy groups, patients, and industry to synchronize efforts, facilitate resource sharing and provide an opportunity for increased connection and collaboration
- The BMSF and the BMS PRIDE Alliance employee resource group are collaborating with the Center on one of these programs to launch a nationwide study that will ultimately help educate oncologists to address health care disparities among LGBTQ+ patients
- BMS is working to achieve gender parity at the executive level globally by 2022 as well as double executive representation of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino employees in the US
Tuba: How does BMS plan to utilize its $300M investment?
Patti: Over the next five years, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF) will invest $300 million to address health inequities as well as improve diversity and inclusion within the clinical trial space. Our main objectives are to accelerate disease awareness among at-risk patients and advocate for policies that promote health equity, improve workforce representation, expand employee giving to social justice organizations, and improve clinical trial diversity. Of note, given the depth and importance of all of these topics, many of them were also recently discussed during an interactive session facilitated through the COVID Advocacy Exchange – a platform developed in partnership with GRYT Health that unites advocacy organizations, patients and industry leaders to synchronize efforts, facilitate resource sharing, and collaborate. I encourage everyone to check it out!
Back to the $300M investment, BMS has committed $50M of these funds for corporate giving grants to patient advocacy groups and community-based organizations focused on disease awareness and education, and health equity projects in diverse and disproportionately affected populations and communities. $100M will go toward ensuring patient affordability and support programs reach diverse, low-income and medically underserved patients.
On the Foundation side, $50M has been committed to health equity grants in the U.S., and $100M of the total investment is committed to develop a program with National Medical Fellowships to train a new generation of health care professionals that extends the reach of clinical trials into underserved patient populations in urban and rural U.S. communities. This program will also provide mentorship to 250 new clinical investigators who are racially and ethnically diverse or who have a demonstrated commitment to increasing diversity in clinical trials, exposing them to a clinical research career pathway.
Tuba: Any clinical trials specifically focused on LGBTQ groups?
Patti: We know the LGBTQ+ community has long been medically underserved and experiences disparities in care, including within oncology, which can lead to poorer outcomes and overall health among LGBTQ+ patients. Fortunately, the Moffit Cancer Center has taken the initiative to address unique gaps in care faced by this community through research and provider education programs. I am proud to share that the BMSF and the BMS PRIDE Alliance employee resource group are collaborating with the Center on one of these programs to launch a nationwide study that will ultimately help educate oncologists to address health care disparities among LGBTQ+ patients. The study’s findings will inform an educational program called the Curriculum for Oncologists on LGBTQ+ populations to Optimize Relevance and Skills (COLORS) Training Program, which aims to improve knowledge of LGBTQ+-related issues across the cancer care continuum.
Tuba: What all-patient support programs is BMS planning to initiate in 2021?
Patti: As part of our continued commitment to patients worldwide, we regularly engage with the global patient advocacy community across disease areas. In 2020 in particular, we tried to better understand how they were being impacted by the pandemic. Through our conversations we heard that advocates’ biggest concerns were/are time and capacity constraints, infrastructure needs, and the lasting financial impact from the current crisis. In response to these urgent needs, as I briefly mentioned earlier, BMS and GRYT Health partnered to launch the COVID Advocacy Exchange (CAE) in May 2020 to better support advocates and provide them with resources necessary to fulfill their missions. So, though it isn’t being “initiated” in 2021, the CAE will continue in the year ahead with even more sessions and resources, and transition to become “The Exchange” as we move beyond responding to the effects of COVID-19. We hope to launch additional all-patient support programs in the future, too.
Tuba: Are there any digital programs being developed or designed under the patient support programs?
Patti: Again, the CAE is a perfect example of a digital program that was designed to support patients and the patient advocacy community. Considering the need for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly realized that conferences, support groups, and other in-person events would be on hold indefinitely. The CAE was created, in part, to fill the role of these kinds of events that help connect and support patients and patient advocates, allowing such interactions to happen completely virtually. Between the live discussions with health care experts, the recordings of the live discussions that can be watched on-demand, and the CAE Exhibitor Hall where advocacy organizations can share information about themselves and their current projects, there are a plethora of resources available for the community to access, all for free. We’re continuing to keep “digital” top-of-mind as we think through future patient support programming.
Tuba: What steps are being taken to influence gender equality in BMS?
Patti: In addition to our work to improve diversity and inclusion within healthcare, BMS is also working to expand the diversity of our workforce and company leadership. As a patient-centered company and a global industry leader, we want to ensure that our employees mirror the evolving demographics of the patients that we serve. I am very pleased to say that we achieved gender parity across its workforce in 2015, but we have more work to do. Currently, we are working to achieve to achieve gender parity at the executive level globally by 2022 as well as double executive representation of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino employees in the U.S.
Tuba: What programs are BMS working on to expand its employee giving program?
Patti: One of the things that I think makes BMS unique is our continued effort to grow as a responsible corporate citizen and our dedication to improving the health and wellbeing of those in the communities in which we live and work. As a part of our revised company commitments focused on improving diversity and inclusion, we enhanced the way our employees can contribute to the BMS Employee Giving program. Now, the BMSF will provide a matching donation of $2 for every $1 donated by employees to select organizations focused on social justice and diversity. These organizations include the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, among others and were selected by our People & Business Resource Groups based on their impactful work and alignment with our diversity and inclusion values.
Tuba: Tell me more about the COVID Advocacy Exchange: what did you achieve this year, and what can we look forward to in 2021?
Patti: We have seen such a tremendous response since launching the CAE in May. The feedback from advocates has been overwhelmingly positive—since launching in May, over 25,000 people from more than 93 countries have visited the CAE website. In addition, more than 50 patient advocacy groups have set up virtual exhibit booths. I am so pleased with the qualitative feedback the CAE has received as well; participants have expressed gratitude for the platform and its ability to act as a uniquely collaborative and unifying space as we work to navigate this challenging time together. We are so appreciative of participants’ continued support and their willingness to contribute openly and honestly during each session. We hope the CAE will continue to serve our patient communities in the long-term and offer accessible resources that meet needs beyond those related to the pandemic.
Patricia Mae Doykos, Ph.D., is the director of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation whose mission is to promote health equity and improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases and conditions.