By Bukola Rinola
It was a regular school day in my seventh/eighth period class. Having this class for 2 consecutive periods can definitely be repetitive at times. But this time it was a little bit different, we had visitors. In high school, visitors to us mainly meant being on your best behavior so that you don’t end up embarrassing your teachers or school. It also meant for most of us, long boring lectures about something we probably knew or didn’t want to know. In that case, most of us listened but didn’t consume the information. This was the case for many of the visitors at my school but ONE.
This time the visitors were also students. Their faces were more familiar than many others visitors we had. They were students from the University of Illinois at Chicago. They started to make us do these activities, like any other student we were all reluctant at first. But here we were able to use our own thinking rather than telling us what to do. We did activities such as looking at a picture and pointing out the problems in those pictures. For example, there was a picture of a man who was working in a kitchen, there were several hazardous concerns such as the hot pa of oil that was behind him. In the other activity, we had to pick a random topic and we had to use our own creativity to illustrate the topic to our other classmates and they had to guess what the topic was. These activities taught me the value of finding solutions to problems that we were presented with and having the ability to connect to people without saying a word. From there onward, I realized the importance of allowing people to find their own solution to a problem. But how will they find a solution if they aren’t familiar with the problem?
The Association of Clinical Trials Services is a community- based nonprofit organization designed to provide prevention-intervention education, and spread awareness about people impacted by health ailments affecting particular communities. Sista Ya Simpson, the founder of TACTS, said she started this organization, because she “felt that black people and Latinos did not know enough about clinical trials and community-based research.” She believes that “if we bring science to the people we can change the way research is done.”
As one of the first community epidemiologists and the only black woman on the community board for the A Clinical Trial Group Association, Sista Ya has noticed the lack of racial minorities involved in the decision making pertaining to cures for several diseases. She has especially noticed this with HIV medications. Sista Ya has been addressing HIV for over 19 years, during which time, she worked with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as an HIV specialist. Sista Ya was able to establish a presence to spread awareness about the effects of HIV drugs and behavior interventions for people with and without HIV.
The mission of TACTS is centered around helping people to understand clinical trials and community based research as it relates to health equity and social justice. The Vision of TACTS is to make sure that people have awareness in education around this type of science. Teaching and educating the public is their number one goal. They stand by the motto of “Bringing science to the people”, based on the need for Blacks and Latinos to understand science. “Health equity is what we need from clinical trials and clinical -based research”, says Sista Ya. “To me, Health Equity is to help black and Latino people achieve their highest best health possible. Not to compare to White people. I don’t want to be equal to white people in sickness, I want to achieve equity given my circumstances and conditions. What’s fair for me as a Black woman.” The purpose of TACTS started because of “the need for the truth”, says Sista Ya. TACTS “focus on education and have the ability to expose it whether it is right or wrong”.
As an epidemiologist, she studied HIV and started the organization so no one could tell her that she was fired. “We want to be independent”, she said. TACTS is “not opinionated, it’s just the science” and the people were able to draw their own conclusions from the facts that TACTS provides. TACTS works for the people, not the pharmaceuticals companies. Through working for people, TACTS is able to work towards achieving health equity. Health Equity is the ability to achieve your highest health possible.