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LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO MRS. HENRIETTA LACKS – A WOMAN WHO CONTRIBUTED TO MEDICAL RESEARCH

by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 19th, 2017

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO MRS. HENRIETTA LACKS – A WOMAN WHO CONTRIBUTED TO MEDICAL RESEARCH

Last year, I told you about Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey, three Black women who contributed to modern gynecology. This year I would like to introduce you to Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, another phenomenal black woman who has contributed so much to medicine.

Mrs. Henrietta Lacks was a 31 year old black woman, mother of five, who died from cervical cancer in 1951. It was the cells from her cancer after her death that has been used for medical advancement. It has aided in the development of vaccines, chemotherapy for cancer, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and more.

Prior to 1951, scientists could not find any cells that could live for a long time outside the human body. This limited the types of research that could be performed.  Her cells were the first not to die and for the first time scientists were able to reproduce  cell lines to further research. Her cells were used without her or her family’s permission. Although many have made billions of dollars on her cells, her family never received compensation.

None of this would have come to light, if it was not for the investigation of a young woman named Rebecca Skloot. Her investigation culminated into a book titled, THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS that came out in 2010. The movie, produced by Oprah Winfrey, will be out in April 2017.

If you have not read the book, I would encourage you to read the book.  The book was great. I honor Mrs. Henrietta Lacks for the contributions that she has made to science and I thank her family and Ms. Skloot for sharing her story.

 

P.S. This is winter break – We will resume our Gynecology 110 series next week.

 

One Response to “LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO MRS. HENRIETTA LACKS – A WOMAN WHO CONTRIBUTED TO MEDICAL RESEARCH”

  1. Mildred Cox says:

    I must admit I’ll watch the movie before I read the book. Lol. Thank you so much for sharing.

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The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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