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Henrietta Lacks Statues: A Powerful Tribute to an Unsung Hero

Henrietta Lacks Statues: A Powerful Tribute to an Unsung Hero

The unveiling of Henrietta Lacks statues in downtown Roanoke’s Lacks Plaza is a powerful tribute to her enduring legacy in biomedical research.

H2 Henrietta Lacks Statues Unveiled: Honoring a Medical Pioneer’s Impact

In a significant celebration of the contributions made by Henrietta Lacks to the field of biomedical research, statues in her honor were unveiled in downtown Roanoke’s Lacks Plaza. Created by artist Lawrence Reid Bechtel, the statues are based on a concept drawn by Roanoke artist Bryce Cobbs. This momentous event brought together the artists, city officials, and supporters of the project, including Lacks’ grandson, Ron Lacks.

Henrietta Lacks, born in Roanoke in 1920, lived in the city as a small child before moving to Clover, Virginia, and eventually settling in Maryland. Her journey took a tragic turn when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 and received treatment at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. Unbeknownst to Lacks, some of her cancer cells were extracted for research purposes without her knowledge or consent, as there were no regulations or restrictions in place at the time.

Although Henrietta Lacks passed away the following year, her cells displayed a remarkable ability to continuously grow and divide in laboratory conditions. These cells, now known as the “HeLa” cell line, have played a pivotal role in numerous groundbreaking advances in biomedical research. Over the years, more than 110,000 scientific publications, including three Nobel Prize-winning research studies, have cited the use of HeLa cells, as reported by the National Institutes of Health.

The unveiling of the statues serves as a poignant reminder of Henrietta Lacks’ lasting impact on medicine. The combined support of Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic in sharing the previously hidden history of Lacks’ contribution has been deeply meaningful to the community. Nathaniel “N.L.” Bishop, senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion, and student vitality at the school of medicine and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer and senior vice president at Carilion Clinic, expressed the significance of these statues in health care, medical education, and biomedical research settings. He believes that Henrietta Lacks’ legacy will remain at the forefront for years to come.

By immortalizing Henrietta Lacks through these statues, the community acknowledges her pivotal role in advancing medical research. The unveiling event not only pays tribute to Lacks’ contributions but also raises awareness about the importance of consent, ethics, and patient rights in scientific endeavors. The statues stand as a symbol of hope, inspiring future generations to pursue groundbreaking research while always honoring the individuals who make these advancements possible.

In conclusion, the unveiling of Henrietta Lacks statues in Lacks Plaza signifies the recognition of her significant impact on biomedical research. The statues, created by Lawrence Reid Bechtel based on a concept by Bryce Cobbs, pay homage to Lacks’ enduring legacy. This event not only celebrates her contributions but also raises awareness about the importance of ethics and patient rights in scientific research. With these statues standing tall, Henrietta Lacks’ story will continue to inspire and guide future advancements in medicine and environmental stewardship.

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Nayan Kumar