Elmer Huerta

elmer huertaElmer Huerta, MD, MPH, is Director of the Cancer Preventorium, a division of the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and a past President of the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Huerta has more than 20 years of patient care and education experience and was one of the first physicians to specialize in cancer prevention. In 1994, Dr. Huerta founded the Cancer Preventorium, a prevention and screening clinic for low-income clients, as a vehicle to serve the Washington, DC, area Hispanic/Latino community.

Dr. Huerta specializes in using culturally appropriate social marketing approaches to promote health and prevent cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease among Latinos in the DC area. Through the Cancer Preventorium, he offers evaluations of personal cancer risks; screening exams for cancer, including Pap smears for women and prostate-specific antigen tests for men; counseling on ways to reduce cancer risks, education in the importance of early detection, and guidance in how to perform self-exams.

Dr. Huerta's involvement with the Spanish-speaking community began more than 20 years ago, with his nationally and internationally broadcast radio and television programs. Since 1989, Dr. Huerta's daily radio broadcast Cuidando tu Salud (Taking Care of Your Health) has provided daily disease prevention and health promotion messages to Hispanics on a DC-area Spanish-language station and via the Internet. Dr. Huerta also hosts El Consultorio Comunitario (The Community Clinic of the Air), a daily one-hour radio program, and cohosts Hablemos de Salud (Let's Talk About Health), a nationally syndicated weekly one-hour television program. His nationally syndicated programs reach 90% of the Spanish-speaking population in the United States and are broadcast throughout Latin America.

Dr. Huerta remains directly involved in cancer research and is currently the principal investigator for the Latin American Cancer Research Coalition, a program funded by the National Cancer Institute. His non-profit company, PrevenciĆ³n, provides health education information to the Hispanic/Latino community.

In addition to his clinical and research work, he serves on the Board of Directors for a number of organizations, including the American Legacy Foundation, the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, Research America, and the Intercultural Cancer Council. In 2004, he received the Innovations in Prevention Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His other awards include the Spirit of Life Foundation Humanitarian Award (2002); the Walter C. Alvarez Award, American Medical Writers Association (2001); the Oscar E. Edwards Memorial Award for Volunteerism and Community Service, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (2000); Leadership Award, Latino Caucus of the American Public Health (1997); and The Broadcast Leadership Award, Board of Sponsors of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Dr. Huerta frequently testifies on minority health issues before Congress, and he was appointed by President Clinton to be a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board In 1998. Dr. Huerta's Cancer Preventorium was noted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is one of the models for The Patient Navigator, Outreach, and Chronic Disease Prevention Act of 2004 (H.R. 918/S.453). Dr. Huerta has presented the results of his work at meetings sponsored by NIH's Office of Women's Research; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Cancer Institute; the American Public Health Association; the Pan American Health Organization; the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; The Mayo Clinic; and The MD Anderson Cancer Center, among others.

Dr. Huerta received his medical degree from the University of San Marcos in Peru. Trained in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology in Peru, he completed a fellowship in Oncology Research at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, completed a residency in Internal Medicine at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, earned a master's in Public Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and completed a fellowship in Cancer Prevention and Control from NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Research Interests

Dr. Huerta's research interests include

  • Cancer prevention and control
  • Healthcare disparities
  • Cultural barriers to healthcare
  • Minority healthcare

Selected Research

Dr. Huerta is the principal investigator of the Latin American Cancer Research Coalition (LACRC). Established to address the needs of Latinos in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area, the LACRC at MedStar Health Research Institute serves the largest urban concentration of Latinos in the country. Latinos in this region are predominantly of Central and South American ancestry, recently immigrated, uninsured, and monolingual. During the first four years of this project, community coordinators, students, and faculty were trained; a postdoctoral grant application was submitted; pilot and career development funding was obtained; manuscripts were published; and results were disseminated within the community.

The Coalition is now being expanded into a regional network to document, understand, and reduce cancer health disparities among Latinos. LACRC partners include multidisciplinary, multicultural, and bilingual researchers and staff from academic institutions, clinics, cancer centers, tumor registries, community-based organizations, and the Cancer Information Service.

View Dr. Huerta's publications on PubMed

  • Research Areas
  • Health Services/Quality/Outcomes
  • Oncology