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Dr. Harold Freeman

Harold Freeman, M.D., the preeminent authority on the subject of poverty and cancer, was born on March 2, 1933, in Washington, D.C. Freeman attended Washington D.C.'s Catholic University and continued his studies at Howard University Medical School.

After graduation, Freeman moved to New York to complete his residency at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, beginning his medical career at Harlem Hospital Center in 1967. At the Harlem Hospital Center, Freeman was shocked to learn that the majority of his patients had hopelessly advanced cases of cancer. Freeman set out to determine the cause of higher mortality rates of these African Americans and to reduce the race and income related disparities in health care.

In 1979, Freeman established two free breast- and cervical-cancer-screening centers in Harlem in order to improve the chances of early detection. He authored the landmark report, "Cancer in the Economically Disadvantaged," which established the links between poverty and excess cancer mortality. Freeman was national president of the American Cancer Society from 1988 to 1989, is the chief architect of its Initiative on Cancer and the Poor, and was honored in 1990 by the American Cancer Society with the creation of a special award in his name.

Freeman was the director of the Department of Surgery for twenty-five years at Harlem Hospital Center (1974-1999). Currently, Dr. Freeman is professor of clinical surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Freeman is chairman of the U.S. President's Cancer Panel, a position he has held since 1991, and was appointed as director of the National Cancer Institute's Center for Reducing Health Disparities in 2000.

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Archival Photo 1
Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Catholic University of America

Howard University College of Medicine

Howard University Hospital

Senior Resident in Cancer Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Archival Photo 2
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season

Spring, Summer


District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination


Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York



Favorite Food


Short Description

Oncologist Dr. Harold Freeman (1933 - ) authored the landmark report, "Cancer in the Economically Disadvantaged," which established the links between poverty and excess cancer mortality. Freeman was national president of the American Cancer Society from 1988 to 1989, and is the chief architect of its Initiative on Cancer and the Poor. Freeman was the director of the Department of Surgery at Harlem Hospital Center from 1974 to 1999.


Harlem Hospital

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

North General Hospital

Favorite Color



Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harold Freeman interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman details his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harold Freeman recalls his paternal grandfather and his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harold Freeman relates how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harold Freeman remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harold Freeman discusses his parents' compatibility

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harold Freeman lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman recalls his involvement in tennis

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman expresses the importance of his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harold Freeman describes his childhood community

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harold Freeman remembers his elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harold Freeman considers the effect of his father's death on his family

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harold Freeman describes himself as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harold Freeman illustrates his relationship with his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Harold Freeman remembers a neighbor who became a mentor after his father died

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harold Freeman compares his relationship with his elder brothers and a neighbor

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman describes himself as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman recalls a black school counselor who warned students to lower their goals--a devastating experience

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harold Freeman recounts his experiences at Catholic University of America

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harold Freeman recalls his years at Howard Medical School and his choice to become a surgeon

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harold Freeman recounts his residency and early marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harold Freeman remembers his transition to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harold Freeman remembers Arthur Holleb, his mentor at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the American Cancer Society

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harold Freeman continues to recall his mentor, Arthur Holleb

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman describes his medical training as "encapsulated" from the huge events of the times

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman discusses the white medical students at Howard

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harold Freeman discusses the increasing public attention paid to cancer by 1970

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harold Freeman talks about Richard Nixon's "War Against Cancer" and his own choice to focus on breast cancer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harold Freeman describes Harlem Hospital in the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harold Freeman recounts the beginnings of his research on poverty and cancer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harold Freeman details the links between poverty and cancer

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harold Freeman discusses the links between culture and disease

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman details the intersections of racism, power, and health problems

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman explains why black women have a lower incidence but higher death rate with cancer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harold Freeman proposes solutions to the disparity in cancer death rates by race

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harold Freeman discusses his future plans

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harold Freeman discusses "third-world communities" in the U.S.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harold Freeman reflects on his life and career

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harold Freeman considers his legacy