The designation recognizes Lacks for her significant contribution to medical research.

Paula Rogo
Oct, 06, 2017

The city of Baltimore has designated Oct. 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day to recognize the contributions of the woman behind the HeLa cells, according to the Johns Hopkins newsletter.

Lacks was a black patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital that was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s. But while under their care, her cells were used without her consent to create HeLa cells, the first-ever strain of self-replicating cells.

HeLa cells have been used in some of the most important medical discoveries and research of our times. It was only once Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was published that Lacks’ story gained national attention. 

Since then, members of Lacks’ family have demanded some sort of compensation. NIH came to an agreement in 2013 with some of the family that required scientists to get permission from the government agency to use her genetic blueprint. The agreement also required researchers who get NIH funding to use a database of Lacks’s genome that they can only access by applying through the federal agency. 

But her eldest son  says he was pushed out of the process, and wants compensation from Johns Hopkins.

Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh signed a bill from the City Council designating Oct. 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day in early September. But there are also other Henrietta Lacks related holidays in Maryland that were recently designated. This year, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Aug. 1 as Henrietta Lacks Day in Maryland and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz declared the first Saturday of every August as Henrietta Lacks Day in Baltimore County.