As the Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer at Acclinate, and its associated community brand, NOWINCLUDED, Tiffany Whitlow is intent on driving tangible improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
A great deal of that drive comes from her own childhood during which she was placed for adoption after being born to an interracial couple. From early on, she understood what it meant to be marginalized for reasons beyond your control. Her work to create more inclusive medical settings has garnered investment from Google and partnerships with Johnson & Johnson and Digital Medical Society (DiMe). Tiffany is also an advocate for women leaders and was recently recognized as a World Woman Hour Honoree and invited to participate in the #breakthebias campaign for International Women’s Day.
Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.
At Acclinate, we’re striving for health equity through inclusive research. We engage and educate Black communities on all things healthcare through our NOWINCLUDED platform, including providing information about clinical research opportunities. We’re working to build trust in communities who historically haven’t had faith in our health system, and part of equitable healthcare for all means diverse representation in clinical trials. Different races, genders, and age groups respond differently to many drugs and medical treatments, and the only way for us to know a new drug will be effective is if people who look like us participate in the research to prove its efficacy.
How do you cultivate confidence?
I follow a simple process: Pause, breathe, go. I pause and reflect on the situation. I breathe and internalize my feelings, think about what I learned, and go. Move forward. You can’t stay stuck in limbo land! Life’s too short for that!
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
It signifies breaking barriers and challenging systemic inequalities. There aren’t many female founders in tech, just like there aren’t many Black female founders. I’m so proud of what we’re building at Acclinate and it’s so fitting to be a Black, female co-owned business that’s focused on amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups.
What was your business origin story?
NOWINCLUDED was created based on my lived experience. As a young mom at 19, I felt like I needed a community like this and it didn’t exist. I had my son, and he was hospitalized for a week after being diagnosed with asthma. He was given albuterol and two other prescriptions, and albuterol is forty-seven percent less effective in African-Americans and sixty-seven percent less effective in Puerto Ricans. At that time, I had no idea what a clinical trial was, I didn’t know there was a process for developing and approving new drugs - or that minority groups were so underrepresented in most trials.
I think so many healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have repeatedly come into communities of color with some short-term initiative, claiming they were here to serve us because they needed people to show up for some specific event, just to never be heard from again. Those efforts don’t educate effectively, and they definitely don’t build trust. Minority communities have been underserved for so long, we need to build foundational trust by investing in them. So for me, NOWINCLUDED is very simple. Now is the time for people of color to be included in clinical research, and this platform is bridging the gap between industry and community.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to take the leap?
Acclinate is working to achieve health equity through inclusive clinical research. In order to really do that. we knew we needed a way to do that that had never been done before. NOW serves as a time stamp for how urgent it is that we change the industry’s approach and INCLUDED is what we want people to do!
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
I constantly think about the lives we strive to impact and the reasons we started our business. I remain confident and excited to change the game! There have been bad moments or sad moments but they are just that, moments.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Disruptive. I don’t only want to impact our industry I want to disrupt it. We can’t make the change we must make if we don’t disrupt the industry.
Innovative aka visionary. It’s one thing to have an initial idea, it's another to continue to evolve and advance. We constantly keep a finger on the pulse of the market to identify opportunities for innovation and mitigate potential threats.
Empathetic. I feel for our community members, clients, investors, team members, and partners at all times. They are waiting on us to make the change we are working hard to make.
What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?
Clinical trials may not be for everyone, however, they should be offered to everyone.
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Just ask! Ask all of the questions. That old saying, “The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.” Is real. Ask for help! You don’t have to be in it alone.
What words do you live by?
If you want to change the world, go home and love your family first. - Mother Teresa
Any final words of wisdom?
It’s ok to fail.