Hogan Administration Proclaims August 1st Henrietta Lacks Day
Dedicates Broening Highway to the Late Turner Station Resident on Her 97th Birthday
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today issued a proclamation declaring August 1st as Henrietta Lacks Day in Maryland, on what would have been the 97th birthday of the Marylander hailed as the matriarch of modern medicine. Lacks’ cells, the first immortal human cell line in history, have helped pioneer landmark biomedical breakthroughs and continue to facilitate critical research.
To celebrate Lacks’ life and contributions, Governor Hogan signed into law SB 328, which dedicates Broening Highway (MD 695A) between the Baltimore City/Baltimore County line and Maryland Avenue/Avon Beach Road in memory of the remarkable African-American woman, whose immeasurable contributions to medicine and research reverberate around the world. Deputy Transportation Secretary R. Earl Lewis, Jr. presented the proclamation at a dedication ceremony, where he was joined by elected officials and family members of Henrietta Lacks.
“Through her life and the medical advances gained by her immortal cells, diseases such as polio have been eradicated, and the human genome has been successfully mapped,” said Governor Hogan. “This dedication sign will serve as a reminder for generations to come of the contributions to medicine made thanks to Henrietta Lacks.”
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration unveiled the dedication sign along MD 695A (Broening Highway), southeast of Belclare Road, across from the Logan Village Shopping Center. Other speakers and attendees at the event included: Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam; Senator Johnny Ray Salling; David Lacks, Jr., son of Henrietta Lacks; Alfred Lacks Carter, grandson of Henrietta Lacks; and representatives from Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group.
Born in Virginia, Lacks worked as a tobacco farmer before moving to the Turner Station community in Baltimore County in 1941. She died at age 31 on October 4, 1951, from cervical cancer, survived by her husband and five children. Researchers were astonished that Lacks’ cells, named HeLa using the first two letters of her first and last names, lived for a long time outside of the body and reproduced rapidly under laboratory conditions. Since their discovery, HeLa cells have been used to advance the polio vaccination for human use, as well as research cancer, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, and numerous other diseases and disorders.
Many of her children and grandchildren continue to live in Maryland. The Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group promotes social justice initiatives and community service partnerships in medicine and the biological sciences. The events surrounding the discovery of Henrietta Lacks’ immortal cells have contributed significantly to the national discussion about patient consent and the rights over one’s own genetic material and tissue.