Henrietta Lacks Legacy Week (September 23 – September 30)
Henrietta Lacks Legacy Week
(September 23 – September 30)
On July 1, 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law the
creation of the Henrietta Lacks Commission. Governor Northam
proclaimed September 23-29, 2018 as Henrietta Lacks Legacy Week—to
coincide with the inaugural meeting of the Henrietta Lacks Commission.
The commission plans to create a biomedical cancer research center in
Halifax, Virginia to honor Henrietta’s life and legacy.
Henrietta Lacks is a hero whose legacy continues to live on in medicine, public health, and biomedical research.
Henrietta Lacks is a native Virginian who received medical treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer. As an African-American woman in the pre-civil rights era, cancer treatment and medical research were not done like they are today. Without her or her family’s consent or knowledge, scientists took tissue samples from Henrietta’s body. They soon discovered that Lacks’ cells continued to multiply. In fact, they are still alive today! As the source of these immortal cells, her cells became known as “HeLa” cells (taking the first two letters of her first and last names).
Before HeLa cells, scientists spent more time trying to keep cells alive, than actually conducting cellular research. But, the endless supply of Henrietta’s rapidly replicating HeLa cells made more time for scientific discovery. That’s why HeLa cells are a staple in biomedical research labs, even today. We have Henrietta lacks and her immortal cells to thank for many medical breakthroughs including the polio vaccine, aids and cancer treatments, and genome sequencing.
On July 1, 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law the creation of the Henrietta Lacks Commission. Governor Northam has proclaimed September 23-29, 2018 as Henrietta Lacks Legacy Week—to coincide with the inaugural meeting of the Henrietta Lacks Commission. The commission plans to create a biomedical cancer research center in Halifax, Virginia to honor Henrietta’s life and legacy.
|HENRIETTA LACKS COMMISSION MEMBERS|
|One Member of the VA House of Delegates as Appointed by Speaker||James Edmunds|
|One Member of the VA Senate as Appointed by President of Senate||William Stanley|
|One Member of the Lacks Family||Jeri Lacks-Whye|
|One Memebr of the HLLG||Dr. Adele Newson-Horst|
|One Member of the Halifax IDA Appointed by the Governor||Mattie Cowan|
|Mayor of Town of South Boston, or Appointee||Ed Owens|
|Chair of the Halifax Board of Supervisors, or Appointee||Jason Studley|
|Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, or Appointee||Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens|
|Executive Director of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority, or Appointee||Matt Leonard|
Henrietta Lacks Legacy Week Proclaimation
WHEREAS, Henrietta Lacks was a remarkable African-American woman, a native Virginian, and a hero to us all, whose world-changing legacy has benefitted untold millions around the globe; and
WHEREAS, Henrietta Lacks’ cells, which were taken and used extensively without her or her family’s knowledge as she battled cancer, became the first immortal cell line, allowing for the unparalleled advancement of medical and biotech research; and
WHEREAS, over the decades, her cells, shortened in name to HeLa cells, would be named in more than 11,000 patents, including the Polio vaccine, numerous therapies to fight cancer and AIDS, and mapping the human genome; and
WHEREAS, the 2018 General Assembly unanimously endorsed the Henrietta Lacks Life Science Research and Cancer Treatment Center and commission, selecting her homeplace –Halifax County – as the place to build a monument to her profoundly powerful and healing legacy; and
WHEREAS, the inaugural meeting of the Henrietta Lacks Commission and the investiture of its members is scheduled this week in Halifax, pledging to work to provide treatments to the underserved residents of rural Southern Virginia, and develop and commercialize new therapies, which will transform the area’s economy; and
WHEREAS, Henrietta Lacks’ loving spirit continues through her descendants, whose mission is to extend the legacy of her miraculous gift and the unparalleled reach of her cell line;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize September 23-29, 2018, as HENRIETTA LACKS LEGACY WEEK in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.