The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – HeLa Cells

I’m finishing Rebecca Skloot’s account of the story behind the HeLa cells.  I can’t tell how much of my fascination with this book comes from the uncanniness of the story itself and how much comes from Skloot’s incredible mastery of the art of reporting a real story. It’s a non-fiction work but it looks like a work of  fiction when it gives each of its characters/facts a beginning, middle and end. It was so well written! Every phrase passed in front of my eyes like a scene from a film, a very sad film, where black people were relegated to medical apartheid and scientists and science played the great villain. When you work with people (and I know about that because I’m a doctor) sometimes it can be hard to balance professionalism and emotional detachment from the person who’s your work subject. It’s a thin line. I guess anyone who read the book can tell Rebecca Skloot got deeply involved with her research got emotionally involved with the Lacks family, and she pretty much wrote herself as a “character” into the book, in a very clever – and very professional – way. Congratulations to the author, it’s probably the best non-fiction book I have ever read.


Edited: and I should not forget to mention the book’s awesome approach to the ethics of tissue research at the end of the book.


HeLa Cells from Radiolab on Vimeo.

Podcast on HeLa cells from Radiolab

That’s what I was talking about (on my last post)

GoodReads Progress on HeLa

The Immortal Life of HeLa - Goodreads Progress


Boyfriend Cary is reading the very same book.

“The Way of All Flesh” by BBC’s Adam Curtis on “HeLa” Cells

I came to know about this video while  reading the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebbeca Skloot – page 81 of the e-book edition, to be more exact.

The video and the words below are embedded from what has been puclished on Google Video.




The Way of All Flesh by Adam Curtis
53:33m – 2 anos atrás

Follows the story of the cells of Henriettta Lacks. She dies in 1951 of cancer, before she died cells were removed from her body and cultivated in a laboratory in the hope that they could help find a cure for cancer. The cells (known as the HeLa line) have been growing ever since, and the scientists found that they were growing in ways they could not control.


 If anyone has any problem, concerning copyright, with me embedding this video on my site, please contact me and I’ll be glad to talk to you.

International Women’s Day

Tomorrow, Monday, March 8th, we have International Women’s Day coming.

To remark the importance of such date, me and the psychologist from one of the clinics where I work will be doing a workshop on Women’s Health & Violence Against Women.

The target public is selected women from factories and offices whom, for reasons too long to explain here, end up missing the lectures offered by public primary care facilities¹. The workshops started out last week, and will go on throughout next week as well.  The event is pro bono. The number of atendants ranges from 20-50 women per session. We took care not to extrapolate that number in order to keep quality over quantity, allowing better participation of the public via questions and debate.

I’m the one talking about women’s health, while the psychologist will aproach violence  against women.

I’m trully excited about this since I’m a public health doctor gone rogue, and I miss doing preventive and educational work directly with the public.

I’m writing a little essay on women’s health to be published in the form of a flyer/booklet to be distributed to general public and firms associated with our clinic.

I consider education and information the best weapon to fight violence against women. Im’ still young but in half a decade of seeing all kinds of unimaginable absurdities as a consequence of my work, I know enough no know that education and information are a  critical issue, independent of any religious or racial aspect. If you try to educate someone and they don’t get it the first time, then you try a second time. If they don’t get it the second time, you try a third time. And so on. And if still they don’t get it, someday something will happen to them that will make them understand it . Then they’ll know what you meant. And then my friends, it all pays off. 🙂

¹ In Brazil, public primary care facilities are called “PSF” (Posto de Saúde da Família or Family Healthcare Unit) and/or “ESF”(Estratégia de Saúde da Família or Family Healthcare Strategy) – it’s all the same thing, govt just keep changing names all the time.

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