The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Our organization was honored to participate in the University of Illinois Health Cancer Center’s open discussion with the Lacks family.  The community discussion revolved around the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman, whose cells (HeLa cells) were taken without permission and used to foster major breakthroughs in medical research such as the cure for polio. Moderated by Dr. Karriem Watson, Mrs. Lacks descendants, Shirley Lacks, Jeri Lacks Whye and Veronica Robinson, spoke on several topics such as the need for families to own their family health history, to actively participate in healthcare and to move past mistrust of medical research. Another panel, led by Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron of the National Institutes of Health, touched on bioethics, precision medicine and research, the importance of having an open two-way patient-doctor relationship and the need for competent, community-based healthcare.

The forum was proceeded by a luncheon attended by UI Health Cancer Center staff, the Lacks family, Patient Brigade members, state elected officials and several appointed state and federal officials. The discussion was followed by a book-signing event for “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. The afternoon’s activities were concluded with a film screening of the HBO movie of the same name. For more interesting information on this event and pertinent information for your health, visit our friends on Twitter @UIHealthCancer, @AIDSChicago or on Facebook at UI Health Cancer Center or AIDS Chicago.

Photos courtesy of UI Health Cancer Center and the TFJ Foundation.

Trailer created by HBO.