With the death rate for all cancers 30 percent to 35 percent higher in Central and East Harlem than in New York City as a whole and one of the highest rates in the nation, in May 2003 the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention opened in Harlem, at 1919 Madison Avenue, at the corner of 124th Street. Taking its name from the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., which provided critical startup funds, the center undertook to provide state-of-the-art cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment services to largely low income, underinsured and uninsured residents of Harlem and neighboring areas. Its patient population accounted for 9,037 visits in 2007; 12,597 visits in 2008; and 13,212 visits in 2009. In 2007, the center provided 795 Charity Care visits; in 2008 it provided 1,889 and in 2009, there were 2602 charity visits.
Nationwide, African-American men have the highest death rates for prostate and colon cancers and African-American women have the highest death rates for cervical and breast cancers. Black men in the United States are 44 percent more likely to die of colorectal cancer than white men, and two-and-a-half times more likely to die of prostate cancer. Here are 10 facts about the center that its staff would like everyone to know:
1. The Ralph Lauren Center accepts most insurance policies and also has funding to provide free or low-
cost cancer screenings, access to diagnostic procedures and treatment for the uninsured or people who lack
sufficient medical coverage. Every-one receives the same high quality
of care regardless of financial resources.
2. The center is a joint venture with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s preeminent cancer hospitals. It is the only outpatient facility of its kind in Harlem.
3. Harold P. Freeman, M.D., the founder of the Ralph Lauren Center,
is among the nation’s most accomplished cancer surgeons. A founding director of the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, he served as national president of the American Cancer Society and pioneered the Patient Navigation Program, which
led to the Patient Navigator and Chronic Disease Prevention Act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. Dr. Freeman served as director of surgery at Harlem Hospital for 25 years.
4. The center’s state-of-the-art endoscopy suite, which opened in 2008, will help significantly improve colon-cancer survival rates of people living in Harlem.
5. The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention works closely with the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares initiative to encourage men to sign up for a free prostate or colon-cancer screening. Those who are screened are invited to an exclusive reception to meet basketball legends and current stars. This event has taken place for three consecutive years and has contributed to screening hundreds of men.
6. Brian L. Harper, M.D., serves as the center’s chief operating officer and medical director. The medical staff consists
of first-class oncologists, hematologists and surgeons who
are credentialed by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
7. The center offers cancer support groups and counseling services for patients and their families.
8. Polo Ralph Lauren designers assisted in the interior design of the facility. The walls of the center feature artwork representative of the African-American and Latino experience.
9. An on-site pharmacy and laboratory expedite drug deliveries and lab work for patients.
10. The center offers classes in yoga, nutrition workshops and healthy cooking demonstrations. To register, call 212-987-1777, ext. 5349.