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HeLa Diversity and Inclusion Conference

The HeLa Diversity and Inclusion Conference sponsored by the School of Medicine’s (SOM) Office of Diversity and Inclusion is held annually. The conference is named for Henrietta Lacks, a Baltimore mother of five, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died at the age of 31 in 1951. Her cancer cells—code named HeLa—were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in medicine. It was the first immortal cell line, or group of tissue samples that could survive in a lab and reproduce indefinitely, leading to advances such as the polio vaccine, cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization, to name a few. The topic continues to impact research ethics today and fuels discussions on informed consent, privacy and compensation.

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