Ralph Lauren is deepening his decades-long commitment to cancer care and prevention.
The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will provide $25 million in new grant funding to expand or establish five Ralph Lauren cancer centers, with a mission to reduce disparities in cancer care and access across underserved communities in the U.S.
The funding will benefit institutions with a National Cancer Institute designation, including Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., and Memorial Sloan Kettering Ralph Lauren Center in Harlem, N.Y., as well as three additional locations that have yet to be determined.
The White House recognized the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation’s philanthropic pledge as a leading example of public and private sector partners coming together and answering its Cancer Moonshot call to action to accelerate progress against the disease.
On Feb. 2, President Biden reignited the Cancer Moonshot, highlighting new goals: To reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years and improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer and, by doing these things, to end cancer as we know it today. The president and first lady announced a call to action on cancer screening to jumpstart progress on the nearly 10 million screenings in the U.S. that were missed as a result of the pandemic.
On Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., the White House will convene a Cancer Moonshot Forum, including members of the Cancer Cabinet, bringing together federal departments, agencies and other White House components to address cancer on multiple fronts. The forum will provide an opportunity for the private sector, foundations, academic institutions, health care providers and Americans to discuss the latest efforts to reduce the deadly impact of cancer and improve patient experiences in the diagnosis, treatment and survival of cancer. Jane Nielsen, chief financial officer of Ralph Lauren, and Roseann Lynch, chief people officer and head of the Ralph Lauren Foundation, will attend.
This $25 million pledge marks the largest single funding commitment made by the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation in its 20-year history as it deepens its longstanding cancer care and prevention efforts to support access to high-quality treatment at an earlier, more curable stage in underserved communities. The programs funded through this effort will focus on providing patient navigation services, increased screenings, early diagnosis and treatment, all of which help to break down barriers that prevent those most in need from accessing high-quality care.
“When someone we love has cancer, it affects all of us — our families, our friends, our communities,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren Corp. and chair of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. “While we have made significant progress and advancements in the fight against cancer, barriers to care and access persist, particularly in medically underserved and vulnerable communities. It is our hope that, together, we can strengthen avenues of support and generate meaningful change for families and communities who need it most. For over 30 years, this has been my personal commitment, and now, joined by so many dedicated partners, we envision a world where cancer outcomes improve for everyone and survivors thrive.”
As head of the foundation, Lynch said, “It is our honor to join cancer survivors, experts and caregivers in Washington, D.C., during the White House Cancer Moonshot Goals Forum. Addressing the urgent needs of care and prevention, particularly in underserved communities, calls for a collective, robust effort that spans sectors, industries and geographies.
“We are humbled to be recognized as an ally in this unified fight to ‘end cancer as we know it.’ Driven by the spirit of philanthropy that Ralph Lauren has imbued in the company’s culture over the years, we have directly funded grantees dedicated to providing critical services and quality care to tens of thousands of people with a focus on increased screenings, early diagnosis and patient navigation. The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation’s new commitment is a significant step in our journey to reduce disparities in cancer care and drive equity in healthcare.”
The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will continue its longstanding partnership with Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center to establish the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention in Washington, D.C., as part of its $25 million investment. In 1989, Ralph Lauren cofounded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center after his close friend and then Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The renamed and reimagined Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention, which builds on the existing practices of Capital Breast Care Center, will expand its services in patient navigation and education beyond breast cancer. It will provide a range of patient navigation services to support early detection, diagnostic, treatment and preventative measures while broadening screening capacity to include colorectal, lung and prostate cancers — three of the most common types of cancer that disproportionately affect people in the district’s metropolitan area. Located in the southeast part of the district, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention will serve a diverse population and engage the community through targeted outreach and educational workshops.
“We are deeply honored to carry the commitment of Ralph Lauren and the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation forward here in the nation’s capital with the establishment of The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention,” said Louis M. Weiner, M.D., director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute. “For over 30 years, Mr. Lauren’s pioneering vision to fight cancer through the Nina Hyde Center at Georgetown Lombardi has led to remarkable progress in breast cancer research and care. This newly expanded collaboration will strengthen our ability to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved members of our community, so they can more fully benefit from improved cancer prevention and early detection. This extraordinary gift will allow us, working together with the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, to make the world a better place.”
As part of the commitment, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will strengthen its support of the MSK Ralph Lauren Center in Harlem, N.Y., with an investment that will help expand its early screening, high-quality cancer care and clinical trial participation services. Founded in 2003 alongside Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, the MSK Ralph Lauren Center serves as a clinical and operational model for high-quality, compassionate and culturally sensitive care and strives to reduce health disparities, as well as improve outcomes for the Harlem community and surrounding neighborhoods.
Dr. Harold Freeman, founder and chairman emeritus of MSK Ralph Lauren Center, said, “Ralph’s decades-long commitment has enabled MSK Ralph Lauren Center to create a replicable model that can bring patient navigation to medically underserved communities all across the country. Patient navigation ensures that at the very first indicator of an abnormal finding, and along the entire journey of care, patients are supported by trained navigators working to eliminate any barrier to timely diagnosis and treatment.”
In discussing the company’s commitment, David Lauren, chief innovation officer and vice chairman of the Ralph Lauren Corp. board, told WWD, “We have been talking about this for years in many different ways. The economy turned in our favor, the business turned in our favor, the momentum around cancer is in our favor. This was a moment to do something that was going to be impactful and big.”
Explaining why it’s so important to the Ralph Lauren company to support cancer care in undeserved communities, Lauren said, “Sometimes the more you become invested in a cause the more connected you become to the people that are affected by the disease, the more connected you become to the doctors who are making progress and the communities that you’re helping.”
David Lauren said Ralph Lauren got involved with cancer care long before it was fashionable.
“Ralph Lauren put it on the runway because we were moved by certain people’s stories,” he said. “The Nina Hyde Center started [in 1989] because of my father’s personal relationship with Nina Hyde. Ralph Lauren Cancer Center started because of our relationship with Dr. Freeman. Fashion Targets Breast Cancer [founded in 1994] was a partnership with the whole design community which my father helped to spearhead.”
In 2016, Ralph Lauren partnered with the Royal Marsden, the largest and most comprehensive cancer center in Europe, to develop a world-class breast cancer research facility. They opened the Royal Marsden Ralph Lauren Center for Breast Cancer Research in London in 2016.
Ralph Lauren’s Pink Pony program has raised significant funds for the fight against cancer through the sale of merchandise, corporate donations, private donations, Pink Pony auctions on the website, and big fundraisers like the one with Oprah Winfrey at Lincoln Center. The merchandise has ranged from T-shirts to luxury bags and watches. “Our commitment has been consistent and global,” David Lauren said.
Established in 2000, the Pink Pony Fund of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation supports initiatives that reduce disparities in cancer care, increase prevention programming and integrate patient navigation into the continuum of care.
According to David Lauren, the foundation found an area that needs attention and that still has not been addressed fully.
“What Ralph Lauren is focusing on is underserved communities which is still an area that Ralph Lauren can make a major difference [in]. What we’ve done up in Harlem was an amazing test case to learn about the disparity in cancer rates in the Black community and in underserved communities that Dr. Freeman has been researching for his entire life. What he started there was never meant to just be about Harlem but to look at the disparity across the country. What he saw was an opportunity to take the learnings and affect communities, whether it’s in Chicago, L.A. or any major city or beyond,” he said.
Lauren explained that the real reason the cancer center was started was not just because there were disparities in the community, because that’s not going to bring people in. “Having cancer is often considered a stigma, especially for men,” he said. He said that Freeman asked specifically if Ralph Lauren could put his name on the door because it would create a sense of confidence in the community. He said people are sensitive to being bilked by the system and are afraid they won’t be able to pay their bills and someone will take advantage of them.
“By having the name of Ralph Lauren on the door, there was a sense of trust,” said Lauren.
Freeman created a patient navigation system on how to pay bills, how to work with insurance or lack of insurance, and how to get the right doctors.
The foundation will be looking across the country to open more cancer care centers. “We like to focus on communities where we already have relationships but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where we’ll go,” David Lauren said. The goal is to do this over the next five years, doing one a year.
Looking ahead, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will collaborate with Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. Conquer Cancer is the philanthropic arm of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the world’s leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer. The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and Conquer Cancer will identify three additional NCI-designated cancer centers based on each center’s track record for clinical excellence, community engagement, a demonstrated commitment to overcoming health disparities and a comprehensive plan to improve cancer outcomes for the most vulnerable and underserved patients in their communities.
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