The African American Contribution To The World's Medical Field
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

The African American Contribution To The World's Medical Field

Rebecca Skloot wrote a biography on the life of Henrietta Lacks, also known as HeLa.

134
The African American Contribution To The World's Medical Field
Wikimedia

Right now I'm reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and it's taking me longer than usual to finish this book. I'm not struggling because it's almost 400 pages long, but because of its content.

The amount of suffering African Americans have had to endure since we came to America is not new to anyone. It's something that the Black community continues to face on a day to day basis whether it be racial profiling one day or dealing with microaggressions the next.

Nonetheless, the struggles I face now are minimal compared to what my ancestors experienced.

Skloot goes into extreme detail about Henrietta Lack's life before, during, and after her cells (HeLa) were discovered by scientists in 1951. The Lacks family was done a great injustice when scientists took her cells under false pretenses and passed them around the globe in the name of science without the consent of her family.

It was the norm for African American men and women to be used as involuntary research personnel during and before the 20th century. Apart from Henrietta Lacks, the first instance that comes to mind is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

The Public Health Service of 1932 used 600 Black men to observe the progression of syphilis without adequately supplying them with correct information. 399 men had the disease and 201 did not, but those who had it were denied penicillin which was used to treat the disease at the time.

Another instance involves Dr. Chester M. Southam, a virologist, who injected his patients with Henrietta Lack's cells to verify whether or not cancer was transmittable or if the immune system could defend against it. He conducted his research on incarcerated people, cancer patients and healthy individuals.

What I thought was going to be an insightful account of Henrietta Lack's life and her contribution to the world, it turned out to be much more than that.

The largest contributor of them all, John Hopkins Hospital, which is ranked third in the nation, was a huge part in terrors the Black community faced during the 20th century. It was even quoted by a woman in the novel that "you'd be surprised how many people disappeared in East Baltimore when I was a girl. I'm telling you, I lived there in the fifties when they got Henrietta, and we weren't allowed to go anywhere near Hopkins. When it got dark and we were young, we had to be on the steps, or Hopkins might get us."

Skloot uncovered a lot of truths about what it took for the advancement of medicine in America. Much of it being at the expense of African Americans who unwillingly gave their bodies to white scientists who believed that was what their patients owed them.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

51089
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee
nappy.co

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

122705
college students waiting in a long line in the hallway
StableDiffusion

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments