Psychiatrist from Brentwood Honored for Work to Improve Diversity in Alzheimer’s research

The 2020 Citizen Scientist Cornerstone Awardee, Dr. Collins Lewis, was featured for his work in increasing diversity in Alzheimer’s clinical trials.

A Brentwood man has received a national award honoring Alzheimer’s disease research participants for his work to create more diversity in studies to find treatments and cures.

Dr. Collins Lewis, 75, a psychiatrist for the VA St. Louis Health Care System and professor emeritus at Washington University, was chosen for the 2020 National Citizen Scientist Cornerstone Award by the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation.

African Americans are twice as likely as white people to be diagnosed Alzhiemer’s disease, but more than 90% of volunteers in clinical trials studying treatments are white.

To encourage more participation in clinical trials that ensure effective treatments for all, the Platform Foundation last year created the citizen award. Lewis was chosen among dozens of volunteers nominated by research centers across the country.

Lewis has volunteered in three Alzheimer’s clinical trials and is a member of the African American Advisory Board for Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, where he counsels research teams on ways to encourage participation of Black people in research studies.

“Many African Americans are reluctant to join studies because of the history of racism in medicine and medical research,” said Lewis, who also has a family history with the disease.

“I want people to understand that research today is not the way it used to be,” he said. “In order to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s that work for everybody, scientists need a broad spectrum of people in clinical trials — not just African Americans, but Hispanic and Asian and indigenous people as well.”

Dr. B. Joy Snider, director of the clinical trials unit for the Knight research center, said as a psychiatrist, Lewis brings a nuanced understanding of how to talk to people about difficult subjects.

“The Knight ADRC team is determined to make sure that our group of clinical trial volunteers reflects our community, and Dr. Lewis’ awareness work is the backbone of that outreach,” Snider said.

Originally posted by St. Louis Post – Dispatch on October 28, 2020.

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