The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention opened in Ward 8 on April 17 thanks to $25 million in grant funding from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. The grant pledged to fund five new cancer centers across the country in historically underserved areas to make healthcare more widely accessible, including in southeast D.C., the first center to open.
“Highest level of cancer prevalence in our nation? Right here in Washington. Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center provides us with an opportunity to try to address the most significant health disparities that our nation sees,” Georgetown President John DeGioia said at the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. The center is a part of Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and aims to address healthcare disparities in Wards 6, 7, and 8.
The center’s opening was heralded by Dr. Lucile Adams-Campbell, Director of the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention and Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi, along with David Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren and president of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, Wayne Turnage, D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, and DeGioia, as they cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of the center’s doors.
The Ralph Lauren Center, formerly Capitol Breast Cancer Center, will expand on the previous center’s services and offer new forms of comprehensive care to patients including state-of-the-art screening equipment for breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers, and connections to treatment or clinical trials through Lombardi.
“It is so important that we are able to provide groundbreaking clinical trial opportunities that are capable of improving health for all,” Adams-Campbell wrote to the Voice. “This is a clinical component of the patient navigation continuum and increases that diversity of representation and clinical research, which is essential to developing inclusive therapies and further informing our community engagement strategies in a virtuous cycle of research and intervention.
Adams-Campbell said the center’s outreach will extend to churches, public housing, federally qualified health centers, local community clinics, homeless shelters and grocery stores, broadening the scope of the previous center’s role in the community.
Melanie Nix, chair of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Community Advisory Council, stressed at the ribbon-cutting that community outreach is essential to form connections with a community that might not trust in the healthcare system.
“I think that community engagement is critical because I think when you reach out to the community, when you become a trusted partner, it really ensures that the community knows that they can trust you, that you’re providing evidence-based information, and creating a pathway for a community who might not otherwise have resources to be part of the healthcare system,” Nix said.
In 1989, Ralph Lauren co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown Lombardi with former publisher of The Washington Post Katharine Graham to honor his late friend and former Post fashion editor Nina Hyde, who died of breast cancer. Lauren has since been a long-standing supporter of and partner with Georgetown Lombardi.
David Lauren, his youngest son, wants visitors of the center to feel as though they’ve entered a space that has the capacity to serve them and provide them proper care.
“We feel like we’ve built a reputation that people are confident about. Many people are scared to go to a hospital especially when they’ve heard about cancer,” he said. “They think it’s going to be too expensive, they think they’re not going to get the right care, they think the system is going to leave them worse off than when they went in.”
Coverage of costs associated with screening and treatment is provided by grants such as the Project Wish program, run by the D.C. Department of Health. Many patients also have benefits through Medicaid, according to Adams-Campbell.
“The Ralph Lauren Foundation supports our ability to direct lower-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients to existing support systems and resources,” Adams-Campbell said about addressing more nuanced obstacles to healthcare equity. “The Ralph Lauren Center provides financial assistance for medications, utilities, childcare, and other costs to continue treatment, and additional resources to help lessen the non-clinical barriers that our patients face in seeking care.”
While specifics have not yet been finalized, the Ralph Lauren Center will offer opportunities for student involvement and learning through the center’s upcoming volunteer program.
“Through its community outreach, engagement, and education efforts, the Ralph Lauren Center will offer distinct opportunities to engage students—further expanding our capacity while equipping the next generation of compassionate leaders with skills necessary to be a force for change in the communities they go on to serve in their careers,” Adams-Campbell wrote.
“The April opening of the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention continues Mr. Lauren’s long-standing history of support and partnership with Georgetown Lombardi and we are so very grateful,” she added.
Lauren hopes to see the center flourish in the community and create real and lasting change for residents in southeast D.C.
“We want people to feel comfortable and confident in the name Ralph Lauren. We want them to feel comfortable and confident coming into a place like this. And our success in New York City has shown us that we can succeed and we want to bring that to this community.”