School’s out, enrollment continues: A.L. Brown employees join MURDOCK study
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó In an arrangement that Duke University hopes other Cabarrus County employers will emulate, the MURDOCK Study staff went to A.L. Brown High School Thursday and enrolled about 30 employees.
They’re doing the same today at Kannapolis Middle School.
Principals allowed employees at both schools to remain on the clock during their appointments, which take about an hour.
“It’s that important,” said Dr. Jo Anne Byerly, superintendent for Kannapolis City Schools, who also enrolled. “This is a study that will change the future of medicine and health care.”
The study needs 50,000 volunteers for its community registry and has about 800 so far, with a lengthy waiting list.
David Murdock, billionaire owner of Dole Food Co. and founder of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, launched the study in 2007 when he gave Duke $35 million.
The study, which stands for Measurement to Understand Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus/Kannapolis, aims to find new ways to diagnose and treat chronic disease by studying human health at the molecular level. Duke is one of eight universities on the Research Campus.
A.L. Brown special education teacher Mark Linn tried to make an appointment to enroll online and learned that he would have to wait for weeks.
Then, he heard he could enroll at work.
“It’s a great way to help people in the future,” Linn said.
Duke scientists are researching diabetes, liver disease, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
But Linn’s main interest is Duke’s goal to personalize medicine. Physicians would use a patient’s genetic profile to determine the best treatment.
“Right now. too many things are try this, try that,” Linn said. “It wastes a lot of time and money.”
Taking the study to a workplace makes it more convenient for people to enroll, director Dr. Ashley Dunham said.
“There are a lot of people we need to reach who have difficulty coming in during the workday,” Dunham said.
As a thank-you gift, the study gave both schools a $400 gift card to Staples.
“We hope this will be a model and hope to do similar events at other employers and even churches,” she said.
Technicians went from classroom to classroom enrolling people who had volunteered. They set up a mobile lab in the A.L. Brown physics classroom to process blood and urine samples.
One enrollee acknowledged her skepticism.
“I would like to know things about myself, why I can’t lose weight as quickly as other people,” said Ophelia Mitchell, A.L. Brown special populations coordinator. “But I’m skeptical about whether it will help me.”
She’s right, Dunham said. The study likely won’t help her directly.
All volunteers learn during the enrollment process that they may not benefit from the research.
While some enrollees will have the opportunity to participate in future studies targeted at a specific disease, most people in the community registry will fill out a questionnaire once a year and never see a MURDOCK researcher.
The registry is a database and can’t provide individualized test results or personalized medical care, but people are helping future generations by participating, Dunham said.
“It might benefit their grandchildren,” she said.