Dr Funmi Olopade on WISDOM: When You Ask Women to Participate, They Sign Up

The WISDOM study—Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of risk—was launched to test a personalized approach to screening compared to annual mammograms. Funmi Olopade, MD, FACP, is a professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and founding director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global Health at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and a co-investigator of WISDOM. She is an expert on understanding the etiology and genomic basis of cancer progression in diverse populations and has published extensively on both genetic and non-genetic risk factors for breast cancer. She discussed overcoming early challenges of low enrollment of Black women in the study.

The WISDOM study was launched in 2016 to determine the safest and best factors to use when screening for breast cancer. What has the study shown so far?

When I learned that more than 30,000 women in California had joined, and that only 48 Black women in California—or African American women—had joined, that's when I said to Laura [Laura Esserman, MD, MBA, co-investigator and professor at UCSF], “This is unacceptable. You have to come to Chicago, and then we have to open this up nationwide so that any woman who is going to get a mammogram can join.” For me, what I wanted to do is to bring it to the South Side of Chicago in a predominantly African American community, and we wanted to make sure that everyone in our community has a chance to join WISDOM if they wish to. We have found that when you ask women to participate, and they learn about the study, they sign up. And that's what I have learned since 2016. And the reason why women don't sign up for studies is because we didn't ask them, or we didn't make it easy for them to join. So I'm really looking forward to finding out with 100,000 women what's the safest and best factors to use to screen for breast cancer.

How do you recruit a diverse population of participants for the WISDOM study?

One of the things that our hospital is doing is engaging community health workers [and] engaging community participants to participate in what I call population risk and health management that no health system can afford to spend so much money waiting for patients to get sick, and then bring them into the hospital. We have got to be in the community. I'm hoping that what we are going to be doing as part of our rollout in our comprehensive cancer center is to work with our hospital, to work with Brenda Battle. Brenda Battle is [now the senior vice president, Community Health Transformation, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at UChicago Medicine]. She is part of a specialized program of research excellence in breast cancer health disparities. And we've learned when we wait for people to come into our hospital, we don't do well; our outcomes are horrible. And so that's why we’ve got to engage with the community and we've got to use community health workers to help us maintain the health of the highest risk patients in our practice. For population health management, for managed care, for value based care, that's really where we have to go is population health management.