Skip to main content

Q&A with Jennifer Adrissi, MD, Co-Chair of Education on the Neurosciences Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (HEDIC)

Feb. 21, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting the movement disorders and research inequity work of Jennifer Adrissi, MD, a movement disorders fellow at the Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology within the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She also serves as co-chair of the subcommittee on education for the Neurosciences HEDIC, a joint effort of the Neurology and Neurosurgery departments.

Q. Tell us about your research in movement disorders and research inequity.

A. My research is primarily in Parkinson’s disease (PD), specifically using community-based participatory research (CBPR) and mixed methods to better understand the “why” and “what now” questions of health disparities in the field as they relate to underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities. The disparities in PD, like many other diseases, are vast and range from PD awareness and education to treatment and outcomes. I am specifically focused on the development and testing of interventions to increase access to specialized PD care and clinical trials in marginalized communities. Currently, only 6% of PD clinical trial participants are “non-White,” and of this percentage, only 1.7% identify as Black and 1.3% as Hispanic/Latino. In 2019, we started the Chicago Movement Coalition (CMC), a Chicago-wide community-academic alliance run by an advisory council of people with PD and care partners from URM groups, community leaders and movement disorders specialists. Through the CMC, we bring education and research opportunities to predominantly minority communities through educational workshops and then investigate how these workshops and partnerships affect knowledge and perceptions of PD and PD research. Another one of my current research projects is recruiting Black participants with PD and Black healthy controls and using surveys and semi-structured interviews to better understand the facilitators and barriers to participation in PD clinical trials within the Black community with plans to create recommendations, best practices and proposed interventions to address the under-enrollment of Black participants in PD trials. 

Q. What does the HEDIC sub-committee on education do, and what does your role encompass?

A. HEDIC consists of four subcommittees: education, recruitment and retention, clinical care/health equity, and community engagement. As the co-chair of the Education Subcommittee, I help lead the planning and execution of the committee initiatives. The overall goal of the subcommittee is to better incorporate education and exposure to DEI topics and knowledge in the field across the clinical, research and administrative teams of both departments with a goal to increase awareness, conversation and action. Current and upcoming activities include:

  • The integration and expansion of the DEI curriculum in the neurology and neurosurgery medical student clerkships and residency programs
  • Inclusion of additional DEI-related topics and guest speakers at departmental grand rounds
  • Creation of the HEDIC newsletter to disseminate information and opportunities for additional institutional and community DEI engagement
  • The development of an interactive bias training workshop tailored to the fields of neurology and neurosurgery
Q. How can the field of neurology and/or STEM fields in general better support or accommodate Black scientists?

A. There are several opportunities to better support Black scientists in neurology and STEM given the significant under-representation at all levels. Sustainable efforts are needed to invest in pipeline programming, mentorship and sponsorship to increase exposure, interest and access to the fields. Active and intentional initiatives to recruit, retain and promote early, mid, and late-career Black researchers and clinicians are necessary in addition to continuous work to build a sustainable culture and environment of inclusion and justice that would welcome and support Black colleagues. These steps will require an investment of dedicated time, personnel and resources to transition from field- and institution-level initiatives and conversations to more tangible and sustainable support infrastructure that can be embedded into the framework of the fields. At an individual level, each of us has our own sphere of influence and impact and can find meaningful ways to serve as a mentor, sponsor and advocate for Black scientists and clinicians.

Follow Neurology on