Johns Hopkins Gazette | January 26, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 26, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 19
Urban Health Institute Launches Symposia on Race, Research in U.S.

Harriet Washington

On Monday, Feb. 2, the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute is hosting "American Apartheid: Race, Fact and Myth in U.S. Medical Research," the first in a series of symposia exploring the role of race and research in America. Leading the event is Harriet Washington, bioethics journalist and author of the award-winning book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Washington will chronicle her exploration into the history of medical experimentation in black America and discuss origins of racial health disparities.

Medical Apartheid received the 2007 Nonfiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was named one of the year's best books by Publishers' Weekly. Washington has worked as a journalist and editor for USA Today and has been a fellow in ethics at the Harvard Medical School, a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and a Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

Washington's presentation will be followed by commentary from a panel of three invited guests and conclude with questions and reaction from the audience. The panelists are Thomas A. LaVeist, director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions; Neil Powe, director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins; and David Lacks, son of Henrietta Lacks, a cervical cancer patient in the early 1950s at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where cells taken from her tumor (called "HeLa") led to a breakthrough in cell research and have been used for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and more. Henrietta Lacks' family was unaware that her cells had been used for research until 1975, after the death of one of the head researchers.

The goal of the Urban Health Institute's Race and Research series is to confront the distrust and skepticism toward biomedical research that exists within the black community and to engage Johns Hopkins researchers in conversations with the community to discuss what is needed to move forward.

The symposium will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Sommer Hall at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. For more information, contact Ebony Pittman at the Urban Health Institute, 410-502-6155 or


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