Johns Hopkins University announced that they would be naming a new research building after Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who became the “mother of medicine” after her cells were used in research for cancer, AIDS, in vitro fertilization and toward the development of some vaccines.
Ronald Daniels, Johns Hopkins president delivered the news during the university’s ninth annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, according to Huffington Post. “Through her life and her immortal cells, Henrietta Lacks made an immeasurable impact on science and medicine that has touched countless lives around the world.”
In 1951, Lacks visited Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for stomach pain, which later was discovered to be cervical cancer. The hospital biopsied her cells and used them without her consent to create the HeLa cell, the first immortal cell line, according to Biography.com.
The controversy surrounding her story was written by journalist Rebecca Skloot in 2010 in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which was adapted into a 2017 eponymous film starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.
Johns Hopkins worked to rectify the relationship with Lacks’ family, many of whom were in attendance at the lecture including her granddaughter, Jeri Lacks.
“It is a proud day for the Lacks family. We have been working with Hopkins for many years now on events and projects that honor our grandmother,” said Jeri Lacks. “They are all meaningful, but this is the ultimate honor, one befitting of her role in advancing modern medicine.”
The new building will begin construction in 2020 and is scheduled to open on campus by 2022.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.