Date of Award

Fall 2023

Degree Type



Biological Sciences

Director of Thesis

Dr. Teri Browne

First Reader

Dr. Jewel Scott

Second Reader

Dr. Jewel Scott


Previous studies regarding African American participation in clinical trials have found that African Americans participate at a significantly lower rate than other ethnic/racial groups. Scholars argue that this lack of participation in clinical trials is a direct result of historical trauma linked to unethical experiments and African American distrust in the healthcare system. However, there is a gap in the literature because these studies focus on African American individuals above the age of 30. This study aimed to fill the gap by examining clinical trial participation among African American college students within the ages 18 to 23. This study also sought to determine whether African American college students trust the healthcare system. The study results were obtained using an online survey, which was completed by African American students attending different universities and colleges. Respondents were asked a series of quantitative and qualitative questions regarding clinical trial participation to determine their willingness or reluctance to participate. Respondents were also given a series of self-rated questions from the Medical Mistrust Index. Results of the study showed that over 70% of African American college students were unwilling to participate in clinical trials. When asked why, numerous respondents reported not trusting the healthcare system or cited unethical medical experiments performed in the past. The Tuskegee experiments and experiments conducted by Dr. James Marion Sims were cited by respondents frequently. Thus, demonstrating the concept of historical trauma, which is experienced across generations. Results from the Medical Mistrust Index conveyed a high level of distrust in the healthcare system among respondents. The findings of this paper are significant and can be used to increase African American trust in the healthcare system and clinical trial participation.

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© 2023, Caitlin B Ulmer