The NCMC will host the traveling Henriette Lacks Museum

PETOSKEY — North Central Michigan College will host a one-day pop-up museum that combines history and science while asking questions about medical breakthroughs and patient consent.

The Traveling Henrietta Lacks Museum will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5 at the NCMC Library.

Related events include two screenings of the film based on Lacks’ story, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 6 at the NCMC Library, as well as a discussion club and reading led by Professor North Central. Davina Gutierrez at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at the library.

Organized by Lacks’ great-nephew, Jermaine Jackson, the museum tells the story of a woman whose line of cells – harvested without her knowledge – informed many scientific advances over the past 70 years, from the development of vaccines to cancer treatments.

In 1951, 31-year-old Lacks presented to Johns Hopkins Hospital with abdominal pain.

Doctors discovered a large malignant tumor on her cervix. While harvesting cancer cells from patients was standard practice at Johns Hopkins at that time, Lacks cells were the first to not only survive, but also multiply in the lab.

His cell line still exists and has contributed to extensive research and many medical breakthroughs, including the development of polio and COVID-19 vaccines. Johns Hopkins never sold or profited from the discovery or distribution of the cells, dubbed “HeLa cells” or “immortal cells.” However, such collection and research would not occur today without a patient’s consent.

These free events are hosted by Gutierrez and North Central Librarian Kendra Lake.

Jackson will be on hand to answer questions and provide personal commentary at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 5. Public and supervised school groups are welcome to attend.

For more information, visit www.ncmich.edu.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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