Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care to Formally Join Memorial Sloan Kettering


The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care, a Harlem-based cancer prevention and treatment program, is expected to more closely align with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in 2019 pending the approval of the New York State Department of Health and other state agencies. The filing deepens the longstanding partnership between MSK and the Ralph Lauren Center.

Since its founding 15 years ago by Ralph Lauren; Harold Freeman, MD; MSK; and the former North General Hospital, the Ralph Lauren Center has served as a beacon for accessibility, quality, and dignity in cancer care for residents of the Harlem community and beyond. With an emphasis on early diagnosis and treatment, it reflects the vision of its founders Mr. Lauren, the internationally recognized fashion icon and founder of Ralph Lauren Corporation, and Dr. Freeman, a renowned surgeon and advocate for health equality who also serves on the center’s Board of Trustees.

“Our goal is to continue to strengthen the ability of the Ralph Lauren Center to meet the cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment needs of residents of Harlem and surrounding underserved communities while expanding the services we provide with the help of MSK’s deep expertise,” said Lewis J. Kampel, MD, CEO and Medical Director of the Ralph Lauren Center and a medical oncologist on the MSK staff.

MSK has filed a certificate of need seeking to incorporate the Ralph Lauren Center onto its operating certificate. The step has been approved by the Board of Trustees of the Ralph Lauren Center.

“We believe that this is the right step to help deliver on the Ralph Lauren Center’s mission to reduce healthcare disparities in New York City,” said James Niven, Chair of the Ralph Lauren Center Board.

“This new model builds on the mission and work of the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care by expanding patient access to world-class medical care. Memorial Sloan Kettering is one of the world’s leading cancer institutions, and we are thrilled that patients and the community of Harlem can take full advantage of their expertise and resources,” said Mr. Lauren.

The Ralph Lauren Center has managed more than 160,000 patient visits since its founding, providing cancer screening, diagnostic, and treatment services regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Given the financial vulnerability of its patients — more than half report incomes below $28,000 — the center provides an array of supportive services, including navigation, financial counseling, and assistance with food and nutrition. A majority of patients speak Spanish as their primary language.

Staff and consulting physicians work with patients to identify optimal treatment plans, provide surgical and radiation oncology referrals to other hospitals as necessary, and deliver chemotherapy treatments. A food pantry specifically tailored to the needs of people with cancer is a core program offering and supplemented by nutritional counseling.

Once the transition is complete, MSK plans to continue the unique care model developed at the Ralph Lauren Center, including its emphasis on patient navigation and related support services, while giving the Ralph Lauren Center full clinical and operational support for its program offerings. The center currently has a full-time staff of 27, supplemented by MSK staff and per diem employees. The center will continue to be named the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and will remain in its current location.

Members of the present Board of Trustees will transition to a new role as program advisors, providing a voice to maintain the purpose of the founders as well as the strong community and philanthropic ties that now exist. Both MSK and the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation are committed to continuing to support the Ralph Lauren Center’s mission into the future, with plans currently being developed to expand the services that are currently offered. 

In addition, this filing allows MSK to actively negotiate with insurance providers for better reimbursement rates for the Ralph Lauren Center itself and to enable a seamless transition to MSK for services that are not available at the Harlem location.

Located on the ground floor of 1919 Madison Avenue, the Ralph Lauren Center has built active partnerships with an array of other organizations in Harlem and beyond. In addition to capital and operating support from the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, it has in the past received multiyear commitments from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and private funders.

Upcoming activities include a campaign to support screening for prostate cancer, a block party to celebrate the Ralph Lauren Center’s 15th anniversary on September 22, and a CancerSmart en Español community program about colorectal cancer on September 24.