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WVCTSI to steer ‘medical clinic on wheels’ to West Virginia communities


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A 39-foot customized Winnebago will serve as a medical clinic on wheels in even the most hard-to-reach areas of West Virginia.

By customizing and deploying a new mobile clinical trials unit, the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, housed at West Virginia University, will bring important clinical trials and follow-up visits to rural residents, thanks to the aid of a $350,000 grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health. 

The Winnebago will be equipped with all the supplies researchers need for on-site clinical trials and will feature a reception area and two private exam rooms. A lab area for drawing and processing patient samples and a fully functional bathroom are also included in the mobile unit plans.

Dr. Sally Hodder

“We are excited to lead this project,” said Dr. Sally Hodder, WVCTSI director and associate vice president for clinical and translational science at WVU. “Rural populations are consistently underrepresented in clinical trials which raises the question of generalizability of the trial conclusions.”  

Participation in clinical research is a gateway to novel therapies and interventions that address current health issues affecting West Virginia. Traditionally, clinical trials are conducted in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, universities and other similar locations, but in rural areas, the road to participation can be rough. 

The travel and time burdens experienced by potential study participants are often barriers to their enrollment in clinical research, Hodder said. Rural populations also experience significant health disparities in comparison to their urban and suburban counterparts. They are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke, which makes their participation in clinical research critically important, Hodder added. 

By bringing high-quality resources and personnel directly into West Virginia communities, even those in remote areas of the state, this versatile mobile unit will offer rural populations the opportunity to engage in research and ensure that results are generalizable to those populations, Hodder said. 

Production of the diesel-powered vehicle is underway, and the team hopes to hit the road in fall 2022. 

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U54GM104942. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

WVCTSI is funded by an IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (U54GM104942) to support the mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia. 

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