Race-Based Medicine and Race-Based Research: Ethical Considerations for IRBs


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As genomics and personalized medicine advance, there is increased awareness that “race” is an inappropriate proxy for groups that may share a genetic background. However, proposals are still being submitted and approved at institutions across the country that assume that self-reported race correlates with biological/genetic difference. These studies are scientifically out-of-date, as genetic evidence reveals that the difference between races is smaller than differences among individuals of any particular race. Furthermore, such studies, even when conducted with the best intentions, risk perpetuating racist stereotypes, inappropriately influencing clinical medicine, and reinforcing inaccurate ideas about biology and race. Race is a social construct, not a biological fact, and as individuals from different races partner and have children, self-reported race becomes less tied to ancestry.

How should IRBs approach the continued wave of race-based research? What criteria should they use to determine the scientific validity and the ethics of such proposals? Should institutions develop policies and procedures to guide such research in the future? During this webinar, speakers will explore these questions and more.


  • Race-based medicine: definition, examples in clinical medicine, examples in research, negative impact, disambiguation of “race-based medicine” versus studying the effects of racism
  • Scientific argument against race-based medicine; ethical argument against race-based medicine
  • Role of IRBs: how individual proposals should be evaluated, how institutions should approach the overall question, and what guidelines should be developed

What will I learn?

After attending this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Define race-based research and race-based medicine, and describe how they are being used in research today
  • Discuss relevant ethical arguments when race-based protocols come to your IRB
  • Consider developing guidelines at the institution-level regarding race-based research and medicine

Who should attend?

This webinar will benefit IRB professionals and members who review biomedical research studies.

Continuing Education

CIP Credit label Webinar participants holding the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) credential may apply 1.25 continuing education credits towards CIP recertification.


Michael Henderson, JD, LLM, MS is associate vice president for research regulatory compliance and strategic initiatives in the Office of Research Compliance at Temple University. In this role, Michael works closely with the vice president for research to strengthen Temple’s research compliance programs and support Temple’s research community. Michael provides scientific, regulatory, and ethical consultation to Temple’s faculty, administration, research teams, research regulatory committees, staff, and other research stakeholders, while overseeing Research Compliance, which includes Temple’s IRB, IACUC, IBC, and Temple’s conflict of interest and export control programs. Michael is a graduate of Lincoln University and Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Neuropharmacology, respectively. He received his law degree from Villanova University School of Law and his Masters of Law in taxation from Temple. Michael is currently enrolled in Temple University’s Geography and Urban Studies program as a PhD student. He began his legal career as in-house patent counsel for a technology startup and thereafter advised the university on a wide range of research, intellectual property, and business-related matters since joining Temple’s Office of University Counsel in 2012.

Kathleen Reeves, MD is senior associate dean of health equity, diversity, and inclusion; director of the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health, and Policy; and professor, clinical pediatrics at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

Nicolle Strand, JD, MBioethics is assistant director for research at the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health, and Policy, as well as assistant professor at Temple University. Nicolle holds a JD and a Masters in Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining Temple, she was a senior policy and research analyst for the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues under President Barack Obama. There, she contributed to work on genomics and privacy, incidental findings in clinical and research settings, neuroscience research and consent capacity, neuroscience applications in law and policy, ethics education and democratic deliberation, and research ethics law and policy. She also spent time at the US Food and Drug Administration, and at the University of Pennsylvania's Office of General Counsel. Prof. Strand has written on informed consent, genomic research, incidental findings, and neuroscientific cognitive enhancement. She has spoken widely at bioethics and research ethics conferences, including the PRIM&R annual Advancing Ethical Research conference, and the American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities annual conference.