13th Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture Emphasizes Working Together to Create a Healthier Community
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“Our family has been working with Johns Hopkins for many years on events and projects that honor our grandmother,” says Jeri Lacks, granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks. “We are so glad to be able to celebrate Henrietta Lacks with the community in person and virtually.”
Since 2010, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research has hosted the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, during which a distinguished speaker relates their work to Lacks’ contribution to science and medicine.
This year’s keynote speaker was Daniel Dawes, J.D., senior vice president of Global Health Equity and the executive director of the Institute of Global Health Equity at Meharry Medical College. Dawes discussed how Lacks’ cells continue to advance scientific discovery, and he celebrated the cultural importance of her contribution to research.
“The story of Henrietta Lacks is representative of the experiences of many marginalized and vulnerable populations in the United States,” said Dawes. “It underscores the imperative for both the scientific and public health communities to approach their actions with a deliberate and intentional commitment to equity, striving to eliminate harm in the pursuit of research advancements. We must work together to connect the dots between the political, structural and social determinants of health that lead to health inequities in order to construct effective interventions and solutions that foster a healthier, equitable and just society for all.”
Keeping biomedical research connected to the people it is intended to serve is an ongoing process rooted in the open exchange of ideas among all stakeholders. To facilitate this process, speakers for the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture series are selected for their ability to communicate the current ethical complexities and challenges facing biomedical research in a way that is engaging and accessible to scientists, health care practitioners and members of the lay community alike.
The series also serves as an annual reminder of the gratitude, respect and clear communication that are due to all research participants.
“Researchers, patients and family members are looking for answers about new treatments and ways to stay healthy,” said Daniel Ford, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. “After this symposium, we want everyone to have a better idea of how we can more effectively work together to create a healthy community.”
The lecture also honored winners of the Urban Health Institute’s Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award. This year’s award went to a collaboration between Maryland Hunger Solutions, an advocacy and outreach organization seeking to end hunger in the state, and Susan Gross, Ph.D., M.P.H, an associate scientist in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. Recipients of the Henrietta Lacks Dunbar Health Sciences Scholarship were also announced. The 2022 scholar is Keaunna Johnson and the 2023 scholar is Eriona Birts.
Thank you, Henrietta!
Article by Michel Morris
Images by Howard Korn & Richard Zhu
The goal of the series is to honor Henrietta Lacks and the positive global impact of HeLa cells. This series will also serve as an annual reminder of the gratitude, respect, and clear communication due to all research participants.
Keeping biomedical research connected to the people it is intended to serve is an ongoing process rooted in the open exchange of ideas among all stakeholders. To facilitate this process, speakers for the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture Series are selected for their ability to communicate the current ethical complexities and challenges facing biomedical research in a way that is engaging and accessible to scientists, health care providers, and members of the lay community alike.
By coming together each year to remember the woman behind this lifesaving, world-changing development in biomedical science, the Johns Hopkins research community will never again forget that HeLa stands for Henrietta Lacks.
The Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture will always be free and open to the public.