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The one hundred honoree: Harold P. Freeman, MD

Profile in Medicine

The one hundred honoree: Harold P. Freeman, MD

Mass General Giving

Harold Freeman, MD, joined the Harlem Hospital Center in 1968, fresh from a residency at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The young surgical oncologist was stunned to learn that most of his patients arrived with hopelessly advanced cases of cancer.

The descendant of a slave who bought his freedom, Dr. Freeman soon became an authority on the lethal interplay of poverty, race and cancer.

As director of surgery at Harlem Hospital from 1974 to 1999, he pioneered a patient navigator program that has since become a nationwide model for guiding underserved and uninsured patients through the complexities of medical care. From 2000 to 2005, Dr. Freeman was the founding director of the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.

In 2003, Dr. Freeman became the founding president of the state-of-the-art Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, located in East Harlem.

“We generally talk of the war against cancer like it’s a research war,” Dr. Freeman said. “But don’t stop there – The war against cancer needs to be fought in the neighborhoods where people live and die.”