In medical school I started learning about apoptosis, or cellular death, in microbiology and pathology and was introduced to HeLa cells. I was amazed that these same cells were in my pathology, biochemistry, immunology, and pharmacology textbooks. Later in my career I learned that "HeLa" was derived from a 31-year-old mother of 5 named Henrietta Lacks who died from an aggressive cervical cancer. Her tissues were collected by biopsy at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 and sent to different institutions without her or her family’s consent.
This is just one of the many ethical atrocities that have plagued the African diaspora. Being the subject of research without informed consent or ethics review was commonplace. Now there are committees to prevent these unethical practices such as Institutional Review Boards and federal regulations exist but the long-lasting damage amongst the African diaspora will take decades to overcome. Many people of color feel that the medical community is not to be trusted. Often, I am told that I work for the institution of medicine and that I am not trusted either however that is the exception and not the norm. Representation matters and patients trust me because they know that I share that same history. I decided to name the mobile clinic Henrietta in honor of Henrietta Lacks and her contribution to the field of science.
Read more on https://osp.od.nih.gov/2019/06/13/new-nih-resource-lasting-legacy-henrietta-lacks/