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The Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture Series

Welcome to the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture.

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This is the 12th year the Johns Hopkins community is celebrating the life of Mrs. Henrietta Lacks and the second event that we are hosting virtually due to the pandemic.

Mrs. Henrietta Lacks’ story and the symposium continues to inspire new groups to be part of our community. This year, we are happy to include: Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanity and Health; Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute; Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity; Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute and the Center for Health Equity.

This year we are fortunate to have Wendel Patrick and Olu Butterfly who not only enriched the symposium with their original composition and performances but challenged us to think through how we can conduct research that is respectful of everyone’s contributions. As Dr. Sherita Golden provides us insight and guidance on acknowledging our history as a medical institution, so too are we guided by Professor Patricia King, who was one of the original members of the commission that established the principles by which all research institutions are required to keep our most vulnerable protected in research.

In honoring our history, we also wanted to celebrate the achievements of Dr. Roland Pattillo, the Henrietta Lacks Dunbar high school scholarship winners, and the Urban Health Institute Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award winners.  They give us hope that we can persevere and move to a more caring and just society.

A special thanks go to the Mrs. Jeri Lacks-Whye, Mr. David Lacks, and the Lacks family for spending some time with us and updating the community on all the family accomplishments to date in honor of their grandmother’s contributions to science. We look forward to continuing to support their efforts to raise the awareness of Mrs. Lacks’ legacy.

On behalf of the Johns Hopkins community, it is my honor to dedicate this lecture to two members of the Lacks family who have recently passed: Mr. David “Sonny” Lacks, Jr., son of Mrs. Henrietta Lacks and Mrs. Bobette Lacks, beloved wife of Mr. Lawrence Lacks (Henrietta’s oldest son). Both have been strong ambassadors of Mrs. Lacks’ legacy, educating Johns Hopkins and other research institutions on Mrs. Lacks’ life and contributions that transformed modern medicine. You may have met both at previous Henrietta Lacks events. I will personally will miss their candor, their true love of life and their unfailing commitment to their family.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones and we will be together again next year.


Daniel Ford, MD, MPH
Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

“We are honored by the Lacks’ family’s commitment to uphold the legacy of Mrs. Lacks and their dedication to educating future generations on the impact of her immortal HeLa cells…They remind us that Mrs. Lack’s story resonates beyond biomedical fields, and promotes reflection in the fields of bioethics, arts, history, health equity and social justice.”
— Dr. Cheryl Himmelfarb, Deputy Director, Community and Collaboration Core & Recruitment Innovation Unit, ICTR

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.