Dr. Elmer R. Freeman

Boston, Massachusetts
United States

Focus Areas

Economic Security
Community Development
Public Health & Safety


Elmer R. Freeman, MSW PhD(c) has served as the Executive Director of the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, Inc. (CCHERS, pronounced “cheers”) a unique partnership since 1997. CCHERS, established in 1991 with a $6 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a nationally recognized model of a community/academic partnership promoting academic-community engagement and community-based participatory research (CBPR) among Boston Medical Center, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston University School of Medicine, Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and fifteen “academic community health centers” serving the diverse racial and ethnic underserved populations of the central city neighborhoods of Boston. Northeastern University is the host institution and sustaining partner of CCHERS and Mr. Freeman serves as its Director of Urban Health Programs and Policy in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Prior to joining CCHERS Mr. Freeman served 17 years as Executive Director of the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston. Elmer is a recognized expert in the application of principles of “community based participatory research” in partnerships with academic researchers to address disparities and inequalities in health and healthcare of underserved communities. He served on the “expert panel” for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Evidence Report No. 99, Community Based Participatory Research: Assessing the Evidence (2004) as well as guest editor of the Progress in Community Health Partnerships journal special theme issue (2013) on community engagement in the Clinical and Translational Science Awards program funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH). He also served a four year term (2007-2011) as an appointed member of the Council of Public Representatives, an advisory council to the Director of NIH on matters pertaining to community engagement and public participation in research. His research has been funded by the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Resources and Services Administration in areas of interest that include the social, economic and political determinants of health status of minority populations; the impact of the internalization of racism on the manifestation of health risk behaviors among oppressed groups; and incorporating evidence based practice in the management of chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension in health center patient populations. His research has contributed to improving health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority populations and for promoting health equity and social and economic justice in vulnerable communities. A true KFLA member, he demonstrates his leadership locally in Boston as well as nationally and internationally in the development of CBPR partnerships between academic researchers and the diverse communities. He is cofounder of the Community Health and Academic Medicine Partnership with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and serves on the Tufts University Clinical Translational Science Institute, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Community Research Network. In a collaborative project between Community-Campus Partnerships for Health and CCHERS Elmer helped convene the first National Community Partner Forum in Boston in 2011 which has met annually since and has evolved into the Community Network for Research Equity and Impact. In 2010 he attended the inaugural meeting and founding of the International Collaboration for Participatory Health Research in Berlin, Germany. He has made more than 70 presentations at conferences and scientific meetings in the past 10 years, including several keynotes. He is an accomplished facilitator with experience bringing consensus from groups with conflicting interests and serves as a consultant to colleges, universities and academic medical centers seeking to engage with communities in authentic partnerships; community groups and organizations seeking to partner with anchor institutions for community and economic development; and diverse stakeholders working toward a society based on diversity, equity and justice. Inspired by his Barr Foundation Fellowship (2011-2014), Elmer has turned his expertise in healthcare and passion for social justice; and the opportunity for healthcare reform provided in President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to using health as organizing strategy for community development, framing health inequity as the result of the social, economic and political systems that impact the lives of the marginalized populations of our society. He also started and will soon complete a book of lessons learned in his 40+ years of advocating for racial equity in health and healthcare in Boston, the Mecca of western academic medicine and biomedical science. Mr. Freeman received his M.S.W. from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work and is working toward a doctoral degree. He lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston with his wife of 40 years, Carlene, and their pre-adolescent grandson, Jakhari, who is their personal anti-aging agent. Specialization Areas: Healthcare, health disparities; community based research; public health; and community development.