ResearchMatch.org, Advancing Health for All

Mariela Rodriguez, MPH, project manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and liaison for ResearchMatch.org.

Established in 2009 to bring together people who want to make a difference by participating in health research and researchers who are looking for answers, ResearchMatch is a nonprofit program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has successfully connected thousands of people with research studies from top medical centers across the U.S. Created by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, ResearchMatch has grown from 63 people to an organization of 174,000 volunteers from all backgrounds.

“Research changes lives, but many studies end before they are completed for lack of volunteers,” shares Mariela Rodriguez, MPH, project manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and liaison for ResearchMatch.org. “New medicines, treatments, and discoveries may not happen without volunteers. People are not aware that research needs healthy volunteers as much as they need people with medical conditions. Connecting volunteers with research, is the mission of ResearchMatch.”

According to Rodriguez, health care providers need to understand how health conditions and medications affect everyone. Currently, less than 1 out of 10 ResearchMatch volunteers are Hispanic/Latinx, but that number is slowly increasing. “It is important that more people consider participating so that researchers find solutions for the growing Latino community’s health needs,” she shares.

Rodriguez works with ResearchMatch volunteers and community members to obtain feedback to improve or develop products for ResearchMatch and research studies in English and Spanish. She also provides guidance and support to clinical trial investigators to provide best practices for recruitment, engagement, and retention of study participants from historically excluded communities. Also, she serves as one of the project managers for a nationwide memory loss study focusing on including members of the Latino and African American communities. “These communities have been historically excluded from memory loss studies but impacted by it the most,” she shares. “I find this work and the work I do at ResearchMatch.org very rewarding. Participating in research allows you to have a say in how we can improve the way we practice medicine. In addition, it will help doctors create treatment plans that will improve the health care of you and your loved ones.”

Rodriguez believes diversity and inclusion in health research are important because healthcare is based on the information that doctors have access to. Today, she encourages everyone to join as a ResearchMatch volunteer. Once you become a volunteer, ResearchMatch emails volunteers with opportunities to take part in a variety of research studies, including online surveys. There is no cost and no obligation to participate. If you are interested in learning more about a research study, you respond through the email that you are interested, and ResearchMatch then shares your protected information with the study team. Your information is kept private if you do not express interest in a study. “By participating in a research study, whether it is a clinical trial or an online survey about our feelings, we contribute to scientific discoveries,” she shares. “Discoveries that are published and shared across the world. A woman in New York that takes part in a study about depression can help a therapist understand and treat another woman with depression in California. The impact of research is magnificent. Just think, that every medicine that you have ever taken was taken by someone – first. That person and all those volunteers in the study impacted your health and well-being. We can all be part of that impact. Thousands of people have been connected to research studies through ResearchMatch.org. As a Latina, I know that I am helping to make a difference in people’s lives by being a volunteer on ResearchMatch!