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Month: April 2011

Made in India: Showing at the Capstone Event

If you missed Made in India at the Wisconsin Film Festival last weekend, you’ll have another chance to see it at the Go Big Read Capstone event. Made in India is a documentary about an American couple who hires an Indian woman to carry their own fertilized embryo to term. It explores a variety of issues, including human rights, commodification of the body, and the practices of global corporations.

The film will show on April 15th, at 6 pm at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and will be followed by a discussion moderated by Mary F. Murphey, Program Director at The Surrogacy Center LLC. Click here to RSVP for this and other capstone events, all of which are free and open to the public..

Waclaw Szybalski: “Working with HeLa cells since 1954”

While many members of the public became aware of Henrietta Lacks and her famous immortal cells after reading Rebecca Skloot’s book, others have been working directly with the cells for many years. Waclaw Szybalski, Professor Emeritus of Oncology at UW Madison, has worked with HeLa cells since 1954, not long after George Gey began to develop Henrietta’s cell line in 1951.

Dr. Szybalski used HeLa cells as controls when he studied gene therapy with the Detroit 98 human bone marrow cell line, starting in 1954. He contributed greatly to genetic research with the development of the HAT selection method, enabling him to isolate human cell mutants and demonstrate the first genetic transformation of human cells. As a result, he discovered and coined the term human gene therapy,a process which removes or alters genes within cells or tissue in order to treat disease, in 1962. Next year will be the 50 year anniversary of this milestone. Dr. Szybalski’s works and acheivements are too numerous to mention in full. Click here for a list of his publications, areas of study, and awards.

To hear more about how HeLa cells relate to science, medicine, race, and ethics, RSVP to attend the Go Big Read capstone events on April 15th and 16th at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, or click here for an agenda of speakers, panelists, films, and more.

Vanessa Northington Gamble at the Capstone Event: “Henrietta Lacks Beyond Her Cells: Race, Racism, and American Medicine”

Last week the Go Big Read blog featured Ruth Faden, keynote speaker on April 15th for the Capstone Event. This week, we’re excited to share some info about the capstone’s second keynote speaker! On April 16th, keynote Vanessa Northington Gamble will speak on “Henrietta Lacks Beyond Her Cells: Race, Racism, and American Medicine.”

Gamble is a physician and medical historian located at George Washington University, where she is a professor of medical humanities and history. From 1989 until 2000, she was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin. Among other accomplishments here in Madison, including becoming the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, she developed the nation’s first class on the history of race, American medicine, and public health.

Much of Gamble’s work and experience focuses on these fields. For example, in the late 1990s, Gamble was the chair of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which lasted forty years, began in 1932, and resulted in medical complications or death for hundreds of African Americans. Thanks to the work of the Legacy Committee, President Clinton issued an apology on behalf of the United States government.

Readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks might remember Skloot’s discussion of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In explaining it, she says, “The research subjects didn’t ask questions. They were poor and uneducated…” (pg 50). This study, and the story of HeLa, share numerous similarities relating to race, ethics, and medicine. We look forward to hearing Gamble’s discussion of these topics on April 16th.

Click here to RSVP
for the events on April 15th and 16th at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which are free and open to the public.