Grant to VCU Libraries and Wright Center to raise awareness of clinical trials research for rural residents through public librarians

February 24, 2022

The National Network of the Libraries of Medicine has awarded the VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Library and the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research a $20,000 community outreach grant to address disparities of rural residents’ participation in clinical trial research.  

Rural and minority communities have been historically underrepresented in clinical trials participation, according to the National Library of Medicine. Having diverse participants in clinical trials is important to ensure representation among all people whose health may benefit from the drugs, tests, services or medical devices that are developed from clinical trial research. 

Librarians are important allies for people seeking reliable health care information and access to clinical trials. This grant-funded program will reach out to those information brokers – rural librarians throughout Virginia. Health and Wellness Librarian and Associate Professor Dana L. Ladd, Ph.D., will lead the program in collaboration with Lauren D. Harris, M.S., M.Ed., a senior administrator at the Wright Center, who helps recruit patients for studies and trials. The team is reaching out directly to rural Virginia public libraries, but  the sessions are open to all and will be further promoted through librarians’ listservs and organizations. 

"It is our goal to educate librarians and also their patrons on clinical trials being conducted at VCU Health and in rural communities. This is a huge partnership between the Wright Center and the Health and Wellness Library. Being able to provide educational sessions for local librarians to help them become knowledgeable to assist others is only the first step,” Harris said. 

The training program, “Help Your Patrons Understand Clinical Trials,” includes training for rural librarians and library staff, a book discussion and a free speaker program. It is open to all librarians and staff working in rural public libraries. The first session is a one-hour Zoom workshop on consumer health and clinical trials. Co-instructors Ladd and Harris will introduce participants to the VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Library and the Wright Center. The workshop will provide an overview of clinical trials, why they are important, and how to participate in a clinical trial.  

The workshop will also focus on finding reliable consumer health information and a demonstration of and “Helping patients find reliable consumer-level information about their diseases and access to clinical trials is important so that patients can make informed decisions about their health,” Ladd said.  

In the second element of the training, participants will be invited to participate in a book discussion of “A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer,” by Mary Elizabeth Williams. In this medical memoir, Williams details her experience with stage 4 melanoma and her participation in a clinical trial. Librarians will facilitate book discussions and connections to clinical trials research and support resources that are discussed in the book. 

The final part of the project is a presentation by nationally-known motivational speaker, patient advocate, blogger and author Dave de Bronkhart, known as “e-patient Dave.” In a free, virtual event on Tuesday, April 19 at noon, e-Patient Dave will share his story of being diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer and his health care journey that included participating in a clinical trial. “e-Patient Dave’s story will encourage others to engage in their own health care and provide personal insights to the struggles patients face when searching for clinical trials,” Ladd said. “His story also stresses the important role patient allies such as librarians can play in navigating the complex and evolving world of clinical trials.”

Ladd and Harris hope that the “Help Your Patrons Understand Clinical Trials” program will lead to increased understanding of clinical trials and participation of rural residents in clinical research. 

For more information about this program, contact Dana L. Ladd, Ph.D., at


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The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research seeks to advance science and foster partnerships that accelerate translational research for the betterment of human health. It brings together diverse expertise within the university and throughout the communities it serves and transforms scientific discoveries into treatments for patients.

VCU Medical Center's Health and Wellness Library is a consumer health library located inside the VCU Medical Center’s Gateway Building. Celebrating 20 years of service in 2022, the library provides up-to-date, easy-to-understand books, magazines, videos and vast online resources. Professional staff assist patrons in finding information about health topics ranging from common conditions to rare diseases. All services are free. The Health and Wellness Library is a partnership of VCU Health, VCU Libraries, and the VCU Medical Center Auxiliary, that recognize the ongoing and growing need for health information for our patients and community.

“Developed resources reported in this press release are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number 1UG4LM013724. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health."

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