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By Chukwuebuka E.C. Eburuoh, ASCEND Scholar
On October 6, 2018, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine hosted its 9th Annual Henrietta Lacks Symposium, to show appreciation for Lacks’ contribution to biomedical research. Morgan State University ASCEND Scholars Chukwuebuka Eburuoh, Jyoti Maharjan, and Damion Trotter, along with near-peer mentor Opuruiche Ibekwe, attended the event.
The program began with a speech from Aiyana Rogers, the great-granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks. Rogers gave a brief history of Lacks' life and how her immortal cells, designated HeLa for the first two letters of her first and last names, enabled major biomedical breakthroughs. Then the event went on to give information on the importance of ethics in health research and the importance of health research to better the community. Roland Pattillo, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Morehouse School of Medicine, spoke about his history with Lacks and her family, and discussed the plethora of research he conducted using HeLa cells.
The Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute presents awards to individuals and groups to commemorate Lacks. This year, the group Older Women Embracing Life (OWEL) won the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award for conducting research that helps the community of Baltimore in partnership with Johns Hopkins. OWEL educates older, HIV-positive women about how to live healthier lives and provides them with the support they need to embrace life. Taylor-Lee Neal, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, was awarded a Henrietta Lacks Scholarship for Neal's wonderful essays and academic achievements. Johns Hopkins also announced that a building will be built and named after Henrietta Lacks as a symbol of the important relationship between research and family.