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IU Northwest welcomes family of Henrietta Lacks to campus event

Indiana University Northwest invites the campus and community to the culminating event of this year’s “One Book … One Campus … One Community” reading initiative on March 22.

Beginning at 1 p.m. in the Bruce W. Bergland Auditorium, located in the Savannah Center, attendees will hear a presentation by the daughter-in-law and great-granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951 and used to develop important advances in medicine. Her story, chronicled in New York Times best-seller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot, explores the collision between ethics, race and medicine.

Skloot delves into the perspectives of Henrietta’s family, which did not learn about the cells until the 1970s, when scientists wanted to conduct research on her children, and who never benefitted from the profit of her cells, which are still being bought and sold today.

The Lacks family struggle is also the topic of upcoming HBO film, co-produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey, scheduled to be released in April.

The family members who will share their story include Shirley Lacks and Veronica Robinson.

Shirley Lacks is Henrietta’s daughter-in-law, and best friend of Henrietta’s deceased daughter Deborah, a prominent figure in the book. Since retiring from the banking industry, Shirley dedicates much of her time traveling around the country, keeping Henrietta’s legacy alive. Shirley has three children and five grandchildren.

Robinson is Henrietta Lacks’ great-granddaughter. Inspired by Henrietta’s story, she is currently studying to become a Registered Nurse at Baltimore City Community College. She represents the Lacks family on the National Institute of Health’s panel that reviews applications to conduct research using the HeLa genome. Veronica is also a mentor at Johns Hopkins for Dunbar Scholars and a very active member of the Lacks Family Foundation.

During their March 22 presentation and question-answer session, Lacks and Robinson will share their perspectives of learning about Henrietta’s cells and their significance de-cades after scientists took them and began using them to change the face of medicine.

Following the presentation, at 2 p.m., the organizers of the One Book … One Campus … One Community … reading initiative will announce the winner of the Student Essay Contest as well as the selection for the common read for the 2017-18 academic year.

At 2:15 p.m., attendees should plan to stay and have their personal copy of the book signed by Shirley and Veronica at a concluding reception.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information about the book and the One Book … One Campus … One Community …reading initiative, visit: iun.edu/onebook.

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