A Reflection on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

 

Henrietta_Lacks_(HeLa)
Henrietta Lacks

To begin, let’s go over the basics. Henrietta Lacks was a poor African-American woman of the 1920s who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 31 years old. Cells from her tumor, known as HeLa cells, were taken without her consent and were discovered by researcher George Gey to grow and divide without limit thus making them “immortal.” This had a giant impact on the science and medical community, one that you most likely have benefitted from. The HeLa cells have been used to create the polio vaccine, aid in the understanding of cancer, cells, and HIV/AIDS, have been exposed to nuclear testing and toxins, have been to space, and are currently being used to grow viruses and test antitumor medicines. To put it shortly, the HeLa cells have done quite a lot! But for all this work… her family was left in the dark and they were not paid even a dime.

The book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot details how Henrietta’s daughter Deborah and the author Rebecca journey through understanding HeLa and Henrietta, as well as provides the reader with information about Henrietta’s life as a whole. What is important to note is that this most definitely is a race issue. Henrietta Lacks was mistreated by John Hopkins, mistreated by George Gey, mistreated by the companies that gained millions of dollars of her cells and the Lacks family is STILL mistreated as they have YET to receive compensation. The 1950s were not a pretty time racially, yes that I can admit. But there is no excuse as to why they have yet to be paid. Not one.

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The novel by Rebecca Skloot

Reflecting on this makes me question my own beliefs, as I most definitely want to either go into medicine or into research, two key topics here. As a doctor, it would be my job to look after my patient with no bias, no matter what color, size, income, history, etc. As a researcher, I would need to equally understand that the end does not justify the means.

There is NO excuse for unethical behavior, even if the outcome is stupendous.

Can you imagine having such a large impact on the world and your family never knowing or receiving any benefits? That would be like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking and many more names I am sure we all recognize never being acknowledged for their contributions to society. But reading those names and matching them to faces… we all know the differences between them and Henrietta Lacks. I challenge you to look within yourself and determine whether or not something like this could happen today. Personally? I am absolutely positive it could. We have fixed a lot as a country in regards to racial issues but we still have so far to go.

I encourage you to read this book, you can get it on your apple device for $10.99 or in your nearest library! Or you can watch the movie, produced by HBO, which I will link below.

 

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1st Semester Final Review

Coming into AP Bio I was absolutely terrified. I was very concerned about how I was going to maintain a solid grade, keep up with the workload, and remain in love with the subject. While these are still very big concerns of mine, I have learned how to manage them! With the help of Mrs. Girard, my fellow classmates, hard work and some faith in God, I can gladly say I accomplished all three of these tasks!

I faced struggles with maintaining a solid grade, but I also had to come face to face with the acceptance that a B is not an awful grade. A “B” means I tried my hardest, need to learn from my mistakes and come back better next semester! B stands for better in my book and I cannot wait to prove that I can make this happen. Tied in with my grades was my struggle with remaining in love with the subject. Often, I would find that every time I did not perform as well as I would have liked on a test, I would get very down in the dumps and lose all faith thus making me not perform well on other work. An endless cycle of me bringing myself down. However, whenever we have presentations I always feel really confident because I am able to showcase that I do understand the information even if I do not portray it well over tests.

The work was not truly awful for me, just because Mrs. Girard never overloads us. The only times I would get worried was when I would procrastinate but that is what I get for doing that to myself! I enjoyed our work and never really felt like we were doing busy work! My favorite projects were the ones that involved me making a video because even though they are really hard to make, I always feel so proud after!

Speaking of videos, I have learned so many new technology skills I get so excited to showcase them! Like this blog! Creating a website to showcase all of our hard work in a fun and interactive way has been super cool and I can’t wait to continue!

All in all, yes I was rightfully nervous. This class is not a joke, I have to work very very hard, but that makes me appreciate everything in the end. I am so proud of everyone in this class and how far we have all come! I am forever amazed at the talent and intelligence of all these young women.

F.L.O.W Reflection

There are many resolutions to the lack of drinking water in many third world countries, but the Inhabitat website (submitted by my classmate Natalie Smith) provides six that I thought were very interesting, specifically the Lifestraw and the Ceramic Water Filters.

The Lifestraw, which I think is amazing, yet does have a few draw backs. This solution is a straw that purifies water before the liquid hits the drinker’s lips. The Lifestraw is revolutionary because it allows water that was previously toxic and potentially deadly to be used. The world has numerous bodies of water that are unsafe to drink regularly, but with the Lifestraw, potential pathogens are removed. Despite being an amazing solution, it is very singular in the idea that in order for owners of the Lifestraw to provide clean drinking and bathing water to their families, they have to suck it up through the straw and spit it back out into a different container. I wonder if the creators of the Lifestraw could team up with another company, or simply by themselves build off their idea of the straw to create a larger solution that could filter more water.

The Ceramic Water filter is one that is truly phenomenal in my opinion and has results to back it up. This solution is based of the tiny pores in the fired clay that filters out the harmful bacteria. Because it is a container, this water can be used for drinking, cooking and bathing which covers many of the issues.

Of course neither of these are the perfect solution, but every step towards a change is amazing.

What most surprised me from the F.L.O.W film was that tap water has more rules and regulations than bottled water. I have always advocated for bottled or filtered water and vehemently refused to drink tap water no matter what. Therefore finding out that tap water may actually be safer was mind boggling to me. The creators of F.L.O.W attempted to educate the public on the water issues around the world and have succeeded in doing so. Sometimes the smallest facts make the biggest impact, like the fact that we need 30 billion dollars a year to provide safe drinking water to the whole planet and yet we spend 100 billion per year on bottled water. I say we because as consumers, we contribute to the problem and there are many ways we can help. By donating money or time, thinking of solutions, aiding solutions, and countless other way, any and everybody can help.

 

Contributions:

http://inhabitat.com/6-water-purifying-devices-for-clean-drinking-water-in-the-developing-world/

F.L.O.W the movie