University of Southern California


Health in Diverse Populations

Given the diversity of the Los Angeles region, USC is in a unique position to contribute to the scientific understanding of how humans behave and respond to clinical interventions, depending on ethnicity, gender, financial well-being, and many other factors.

Diversity is an emphasis in several schools as well as our major research centers and institutes, but can become a stronger strategic theme for all of our human subject research in the future.

Find out why our clinical diversity research is so successful below.

Jump to:

 Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC-CTSI)
 Exploring Impact of Culture and Genetics on Hispanics with MS
 USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging
 Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
 USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Information Institute
 The Alzheimer Disease Research Center
 The Roski Eye Institute
 The Center for Translational Pharmacogenomics
 Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute

To add or update a diversity program, please fill out our Diversity Programs Form.


Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC-CTSI) provides education, training and online resources for workforce development, with special focus on clinical research in diverse populations.  Courses include:

Research in Diverse Urban Populations is a certificate course on clinical and translational research in populations characterized by diversity in race, ethnicity, country of origin, and socioeconomic status. Learn more.

Study Population and Study Design in Clinical and Translational Research: Video lecture educates researchers on Study Populations, Target Populations, and Source populations, including challenges in diverse “mega-cities”, such as ethnic and cultural differences, subpopulations, and factors that can bias findings and impair generalization of research findings to broader populations. Learn more.

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Exploring Impact of Culture and Genetics on Hispanics with MS, a collaboration with the Alliance for Research in Hispanic MS, in partnership with UC San Francisco, actively recruits Hispanics with multiple sclerosis (MS) to participate in a study examining the impact of genetics, acculturation and cultural perceptions on disease severity.

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USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging utilizes aging research to develop programs, services and policy recommendations to improve health and life satisfaction of aging minorities. This includes an NIH funded study to assess the interest and recruit community partners for an interdisciplinary research collaborative. Other research aimed at minority recruitment includes:

BrainWorks: A Comparative Effectiveness Trial to Examine Text Message-Based Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Education for Community-Dwelling African Americans: uses text messaging to obtain preliminary data to support trials for interventions to increase African American participation in AD prevention trials and foster a research collaborative between the School of Social Work and the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute. Learn more.

The Wisdom Project: Exploring Attitudes and Beliefs about Alzheimer’s Disease and Clinical Research among African Americans: The research explores the beliefs, experiences and informational and educational needs related to Alzheimer’s disease and participation in clinical research among African Americans. The study also investigates the role of race and culture in African Americans’ attitudes and beliefs about AD and participation in clinical research.

The Los Angeles Healthy Aging Indicator Project: will develop multiple population health metric tools and a community dissemination and engagement component corresponding to the community assessment, intervention, and research functions of the Health Aging Los Angeles County initiative. Learn more.

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Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is a major national resource for cancer research, treatment, prevention, and education.  Studies conducted by the center, including tobacco research, cancer communications, nutrition, physical activity, obesity prevention, melanoma and HPV prevention, and screening, either oversample or exclusively focus on low-income minority populations, including but not limited to youth and young adults, taking advantage of LA County’s diversity. Examples include:

Translational and Clinical Sciences Program (TACS): studies cancer disparities, focusing on URM populations and the underserved, such as the African American Hereditary Prostate Cancer Study that has become a model for genetic studies in underrepresented populations and has led to the first genome wide scan for prostate cancer susceptibility genes in African Americans. Learn more.

The Multiethnic Cohort Study of Diet and Cancer (MEC): one of the largest of its kind, and a collaboration with University of Hawaii Cancer Center, examines lifestyle risk factors, especially diet and nutrition, as well as genetic susceptibility in relation to the causation of cancer; the study population comprises over 215,000 men and women, primarily of African American, Japanese, Latino, Native Hawaiian and Caucasian origin. Learn more.

The Cancer Epidemiology Program investigates cancer through epidemiological studies, incorporating genetic and molecular epidemiology approaches, and has a defined focus on ethnic diversity, consistent with the populations within the USC Norris catchment area. Learn more.

The Cancer Control Research Program develops prevention interventions that modify cancer risk behaviors, with a focus on the diverse, vulnerable, and disadvantaged members of the LA catchment area, as it reflects the disparities seen in the US population. Learn more.

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USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Information Institute, in collaboration with the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center and the University of California, San Francisco, was recently awarded $12 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study aging and Alzheimer’s among Mexican-Americans (Health and Aging Brain Among Latin Elders – HABLE). The five-year study will recruit 2,000 volunteers from North Texas – half Mexican-Americans and half non-Hispanic White – to gain a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s affects Latinos differentially. Learn more.

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The Alzheimer Disease Research Center investigates memory problems and aging, such as the Ringman study (Estudio de la enfermaded de Alzheimer en Jalisciences) that leverages the Human Connectome Project protocol to characterize the anatomical, pathological, physiological, and clinical pre- and symptomatic stages of autosomal dominant subtypes in those of Mexican Mestizo origin, a population typically under-represented in Alzheimer’s and other neuroscientific research. By adopting the protocol into Spanish for this population, it also creates a database to enable future studies with Latinos. Visit their website.

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The Roski Eye Institute studies diverse and underserved populations, including the Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Quality of Life in Latinos study, to assess the association of vision-specific health-related quality of life with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in adult Latinos; the Prevalence of AMD in Chinese American Adults study, to determine the age- and sex- specific prevalence of AMD among Chinese Americans and the African-American Eye Disease Study, finding that African-Americans bear heavier burden of diabetic macular edema. Visit their website.

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The Center for Translational Pharmacogenomics promotes research in studying genetic variation in drug disposition underlying different ethnic patient populations in Los Angeles communities, to improve treatment efficacy and reduce toxicities. Additionally, the School of Pharmacy maintains partnerships with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and other health agencies to engage ethnicities and economic groups that are traditionally under-represented in clinical research. The school’s “Fotonovela” offers a communication tool for health promotion among low-income, low-literacy Latino populations on topics such as depression, diabetes, and dementia.

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Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute is a consortium dedicated to the acceleration of therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease. The institute is currently running 14 clinical trials, two of which have a substantial minority recruitment component:

Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4): The study tests whether a new investigational treatment can slow memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Special efforts are made to encourage minority enrollment through outreach efforts (media and community outreach), with a requirement to screen at least one out of every 5 subjects from an under-represented minority. Learn more.

ADNI 3: The study analyzes brain scans, genetic profiles and biomarkers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid to enable researchers to follow AD as it progresses in an individual, from various points in the disease process. Women and members of minority groups (actively recruited using registries targeting African-American and Latinos), with expected minority participation of 12%, mirroring the 14% aged minority population nationally. Learn more.

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