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This Giant of Cancer Care Made Bridging the Fairness Gap His Lifelong Quest

Published: Sunday, Apr 03, 2016
Harold P. Freeman, MD

Harold P. Freeman, MD

When Harold P. Freeman, MD, began visiting American cities more than 25 years ago to learn about the effects of race and poverty on cancer outcomes, few people were talking about disparities in access and care.

“You shouldn’t die because you are poor, from cancer or anything else,” he said. “Patient navigation is one of those elements that, in my view, tends to temper the point that we have great systems, wonderful specialists, powerful cancer centers, and we say we can give the best care in the world—but they don’t say what they should say, which is, ‘If you can pay for it.’”

Patient Navigation Takes Hold

At the age of 83, Freeman spends most of his time teaching and promoting his signature idea of patient navigation—systems through which trained nonprofessionals and oncology care providers help patients with cancer to obtain the care they need in timely fashion throughout their journey. The Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute in New York City trains nurses and other healthcare providers and community members in how best to guide patients through the continuum of cancer care, from outreach efforts to the finding of abnormalities to timely diagnosis and treatment. Individuals who complete the 2-day training program receive a certificate in patient navigation.
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