The personal side of PAD: How Dr. Richard Browne is helping to Save Legs and Change Lives
Our Race to Health Equity is featuring the people at the heart of Johnson & Johnson who are working to make a more equitable world possible through its Health Equity Champion Spotlight series. September was Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Awareness Month, a disease which disproportionately affects Black Americans. PAD is a leading cause of amputations in the U.S., but many in the Black community don’t know they have the disease. Dr. Richard Browne, a cardiologist who serves as Senior Medical Executive, Cardiovascular and Metabolism Medical Affairs at Janssen, is working to change that.
Dr. Browne has personally experienced inequities in health care. He understands the devastating effect this can have on patients of color, particularly those with PAD. When Dr. Browne speaks about health inequities and peripheral artery disease (PAD), it’s clear there’s a passion that drives his work. It goes back to his father-in-law, Russel.
“He was a long-time diabetic, and I feel that the care he received was suboptimal, in part because of the color of his skin.”
Dr. Browne’s father-in-law’s health took a downward turn after developing PAD. Starting at age 59, both of his legs and his right arm were amputated over a two-year span. Soon after that, he died and never had the opportunity to meet his grandson, Ricky.
“That’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. I wish my son could have met him and learned from him. Russel was very spiritual, funny and bigger than life.”
Changing Inequities Faced by Cardiovascular Patients
Since July 2021, Dr. Browne has worked at Janssen to help change the experiences of cardiovascular patients like his father-in-law and reduce the rate of PAD-related amputations in Black Americans.
He and his team use three tactics to achieve these goals: partnerships, research, and the empowerment of individuals and communities. Along with educating patients, Dr. Browne raises awareness among clinicians, helping them to be more mindful of PAD and understand what treatment options are available for patients.
He and his team go into communities and provide PAD screenings through Janssen’s Save Legs. Change Lives.™, a multi-year initiative to create urgency and action to address the hidden threat of PAD-related amputation. On the research and data side, Dr. Browne collaborates with Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC using the Health Equity Assessment Tracker (HEATMap) to uncover the geographic areas where racial health inequities in PAD care occur.
As part of Save Legs. Change Lives.™, Dr. Browne and other physicians participate in educational programs where Black faculty talk to individuals about what PAD is and help them understand the increased risk for Black people. Dr. Browne and his team have educated thousands of people with these programs.
“We recognize that knowledge is power, and patients who have a clearer understanding of their risk factors become much more likely to seek medical care and have better health.”
Bringing PAD Care to Cities Across the Country
Dr. Browne is most excited about the HEATMap platform, which has helped him and his team identify five U.S. cities with the highest racial health inequities in PAD care: Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans and Los Angeles. In these cities, PAD-related amputations in Black patients are significantly higher than in other races. Dr. Browne and his team are visiting all five cities this year to provide educational programs and PAD screenings. For more information, visit www.savelegschangelives.com
“In some of the areas we screened, we found that the PAD detection rate is as high as 35%. The national average is 14%.”
When it comes to the future of health equity, Dr. Browne is hopeful. He hopes for a world where PAD patients are on appropriate medical therapy with better health, ultimately leading to fewer amputations. He hopes clinicians will have a greater understanding of unconscious bias, so they can be more understanding during their interactions with patients of color. He also wants the U.S. government to better recognize that PAD affects millions of Americans and to help increase awareness and early detection of the disease. Dr. Browne hopes that our society understands the need to give patients the resources and support that meets their specific needs so that ultimately, everyone can have a better chance at equitable care.