Questions about the 2011 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture?

Who should come?
The event is free and open to the public. However, advance registration is required. The topic is relevant to anyone interested in biomedical research and research ethics, including research participants and members of the lay community, as well as Johns Hopkins students, faculty, staff, and their families. Primarily recommended for ages 14 and up. Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible to secure a seat.

What is the location and event time?
The event will be held in the Turner Complex Auditorium on the Johns Hopkins medical campus. Turner is located on the corner of Rutland Avenue and Monument Street at 720 Rutland Avenue in Baltimore. Continental breakfast and sign-in will begin at 8:30 am, with the program beginning at 9:30 am and ending at approximately 3:00 pm. Lunch will be served midday.

Where do I park?
Complimentary parking is available in Washington Street Garage, which is located at the intersection of Washington and Monument Streets. For those with handicapped placards, complimentary parking is available at the Rutland Street Garage located at 1800 Madison Street. Volunteers will be on hand at both garages to direct you to Turner Auditorium.

What if I have a disability?
Sign language interpreters will be present at the event. Large print handouts and wheelchair assistance and seating will be available for those who indicate a need on the registration form. For those with handicapped placards, complimentary parking is available at the Rutland Street Garage located at 1800 Madison Street.

Who is Henrietta Lacks, and why are her cells important?
Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who underwent treatment for an aggressive form of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. In addition to providing her with medical care, Henrietta’s doctor at Hopkins removed some of her cancerous cells to use in research without getting her written consent. (It’s important to note that at this time the practice of obtaining informed consent from cell or tissue donors was essentially unknown among academic medical centers.)

Despite receiving a high standard of medical treatment, Mrs. Lacks ultimately succumbed to this cancer at the young age of 31. However, her cells—called “HeLa” from the first two letters of her first and last names—remarkably continued to reproduce in the laboratory. Researchers around the world had been trying to identify or develop a standardized human cell line that could be reproduced in a laboratory setting; they knew that this kind of cell line would provide numerous opportunities to improve the human condition by allowing them to better understand, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases.

Because of their unique ability to reproduce indefinitely, HeLa cells have been instrumental in the development of the polio vaccine, cancer treatment protocols, AIDS research, and much more, and they continue to play an important role in medical advances worldwide.

Who is Harriet Washington?
Harriet Washington is an award-winning medical writer and editor, and the author of the best-selling book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Her forthcoming book, Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself, will soon be released by Doubleday. Copies of both books will be available for sale at the lecture. Ms. Washington’s work focuses primarily on bioethics, the history of medicine, the commodification of medical advancement, African American health issues, and the intersection of medicine, ethics, and culture.

photo of Author Harriet A. Washington

Medical Apartheid, the first social history of medical research with African Americans, was chosen as one of Publishers’ Weekly Best Books of 2006. The book also won the National Book Critics Circle Nonfiction Award, a PEN award, the 2007 Gustavus Myers Award, and Nonfiction Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It has been praised in periodicals from the Washington Post and Newsweek to the Economist, and the London Times, and experts have praised its scholarship, accuracy and insights. The upcoming Deadly Monopolies is already garnering advance praise as an unflinching look at the practice of patenting genes, DNA sequences, and other biological products.

Ms. Washington wrote Medical Apartheid as Research Fellow in Ethics at Harvard Medical School. She has worked as a Page One editor for USA Today and as a science editor for metropolitan dailies and several national magazines. Her work has appeared in Health, Emerge, and Psychology Today, as well as such academic publications as the Harvard Public Health Review, the Harvard AIDS Review, Nature, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The American Journal of Public Health, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Her awards include the Congressional Black Caucus Beacon of Light Award, two awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and a Unity Award from Emerge. She is the founding editor of The Harvard Journal of Minority Public Health and has presented her work at universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Ms. Washington has taught at venues that include New School University, SUNY, the Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, Harvard School of Public Health, and Tuskegee University. She has sat on the boards of many organizations, including The Young Women’s Christian Association, the School Health Advisory Board of the Monroe County Department of Health, and the Journal of the National Medical Association, to name a few.

Ms. Washington has also worked as a laboratory technician, as a medical social worker, and as the manager of a poison-control center/suicide hotline. She has also performed as an oboist and as a classical-music announcer for WXXI-FM, a PBS affiliate in Rochester, New York. She lives in New York City with her husband Ron DeBose.

Arrangements for the appearance of Harriet Washington made through Greater Talent Network, Inc., New York, NY.