PHN Section Book Discussion: The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The next PHN Section Book Discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot will be August 29, 6 – 7 pm ET

The MPHA PHN section is now offering free one continuing education credit for participation on the Book Club Discussions.  The PHN Section is able to provide a limited number of copies of this acclaimed book to participants interested in joining us for this discussion.  If interested in obtaining a copy of this book and joining the online discussion, please respond to Lynn McDaniels, as requests will be honored as they are received.

We hope to see you for the discussion of this wonderful book!  it is not necessary to read the book in order to participate.

Mark your calendars for the next discussion:

The Sum of Us:  What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee on November 28, 2023 6 – 7 pm.

Join the meeting on MS Teams
Topic:  MPHA PHN Book Club Discussion
Time:  August 29, 2023, 6 pm Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Below is an overview by Amazon of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa.  She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells — taken without her knowledge — became one of the most important tools in medicine:  The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.  HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent.  And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits.  As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family — past and present — is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family — especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah.  Deborah was consumed with questions:  Had scientists cloned her mother?  Had they killed her to harvest her cells?  And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance.

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

For questions, contact Andrea Agboka at


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