“I am humbled daily by the lives we can impact”

Tiffany Whitlow High-Res

“A great deal of my drive comes from my own childhood during which I was placed for adoption after being born to an interracial relationship. From early on, I understood what it meant to be marginalised for reasons beyond your control,” says Love and Marriage star Tiffany Whitlow…

Tiffany Whitlow has set out to spread awareness and make a change in the black community around healthcare as the co-founder of a biotech company, Acclinate, and its associated community brand NOWINCLUDED.

She’s secured investment from Google and a partnership with Johnson & Johnson, and was recognised as a World Woman Hour Honoree, as well as recently being named one of the 22 women in Alabama propelling tech forward.

The second branch of her business began when her son developed asthma and Whitlow discovered that Albuterol, his medication, was significantly less effective for him than his white peers (around 47% less effective). Here, she tells us what happened and how it led to her launching her organisation.

How did your experience with your son lead to you launching a platform helping people of colour to navigate the healthcare system, and get the support they need?

I didn’t do anything initially, but I listened to my son’s physician and wondered why I had never heard of clinical research prior to learning about the ineffectiveness of drugs. I often wondered what else I could do to aid my son in feeling better and prescription free.

It wasn’t until many years later that my co-founder and I shared our personal experiences in such a way that we were motivated to solve this systemic issue and build a solution.

Our approach is informed by the obvious gaps in health equity, the demographic of people who most often fall through those gaps, the lack of research and treatment options that exist, and the lack of trust and representation they see and feel in medical settings.

Our ideas all centre on finding solutions for the people who are most impacted by those factors.

What was your background, work-wise, prior to launching NOWINCLUDED?

Like most entrepreneurs, I have had a non-linear path. This is my second startup. I have 15 years of experience in community engagement and business development that led me to co-found the biotech research company, Acclinate.

Even with my professional experience in business development and management, I have always thrived in any capacity that allows me to give a voice to those who often go unheard.

As the co-founder and chief development officer at Acclinate, I am intent on driving tangible improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion. A great deal of that drive comes from my own childhood during which I was placed for adoption after being born to an interracial relationship. From early on, I understood what it meant to be marginalised for reasons beyond your control.

My work to create more inclusive healthcare settings has garnered investment from Google and partnerships with Johnson & Johnson and Digital Medical Society (DiMe). I am also an advocate for women leaders and was recently recognised as a World Woman Hour Honoree and invited to participate in the #breakthebias campaign for International Women’s Day. I was recently named as one of the 22 women in Alabama propelling tech forward.

How (and when) did you move from idea to launch?

My co-founder, Del Smith, and I launched Acclinate and after many months of market research finally landed on our current business model. On February 27, 2020, we won an Alabama Launchpad award that allowed us to fully realise our vision for the first time.

Fast forward two years, we just closed our seed investment round, and we are continuing to grow our team and scale the NOWINCLUDED community. He has been instrumental in helping me bring all my dreams for the NOWINCLUDED community, Acclinate, and the communities we serve, into focus.

How has your platform been received?

The NOWINCLUDED platform has been positively received by the community, investors, clients, and our partners. The community has grown to 20,000 members and continues to scale. Daily I hear someone say, “it’s about time for this!” or “I wish I had this community when I was diagnosed…”.

For too long, the industry has dictated that healthcare is some mystical phenomenon that just happens. As though the individual has no control or responsibility of their health. So to actually interact on the platform with real people, sharing their lived experiences that resonate with other community members, is a dream come true for me. There is still work to do and there are still many more voices to be heard, but we are excited to be part of the journey that will change the face of healthcare.

Do you have stats on how many people you’ve helped?

Our new member growth rate is 25%.
Our sustained engagement rate is 65%.
We currently have 20k members.

What is your dream, for the business?

My dream is for the minority community to have a trusted space for us to share our stories and have them be heard, find healthcare information, and resources that allow us to make THE best, most informed healthcare decisions. I am not a clinical trial advocate. I do believe a clinical trial should be an option for everyone.

Although medical advances occur every day, the digitisation of clinical trials – with respect to access for certain populations – can be a barrier. We want to make sure that fewer and fewer populations continue to be left out.

Greatest challenge, so far?

Interestingly enough, our greatest challenge has been overcoming the historical mistrust in minority communities and re-educating people of colour about clinical research and the need for minority representation. This goes back to the genesis of health. We have far too long been told to expect certain disease states because of our culture. We do not have to fall victim to certain diseases if we take the responsibility of educating ourselves, our families, and the industry.

Greatest success?

Living out the dream that I mentioned before. I am humbled daily by the lives we can impact. It’s one thing to write out a plan on Post-It Notes, but living it out is the greatest success.

Any other comments?
I would tell them to be confident, be persistent, and be patient. Doing work that facilitates change is not easy and it is not fast. It is a marathon.

Author: Annie Ridout