Award-winning author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks visits RIT Sept. 30

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Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot, the award-winning science writer and author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, will discuss the subject of her book during a Sept. 30 visit to RIT.

Skloot will give a presentation at 7:30 p.m. in Ingle Auditorium in the Student Alumni Union, to be followed by a reception and booksigning in the Fireside Lounge at 8:30 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Skloot gained national notice in 2010 with the release of her biography on Henrietta Lacks, an African-American women who unwittingly donated cells from a cancerous tumor that, due to their unique properties, were used to create an immortal cell line for use in medical research studies. The cell line led to the development of a number of medicines and medical treatments, but Lacks never knew the cells had been taken and was never compensated for the continued use of the cell line.

“This is the story of one of the most important women to contribute, even without her knowledge, to science and technology in the 20th century,” notes Lisa Hermsen, associate professor of English at RIT who helped lead the effort to bring Skloot to campus.

“Skloot’s profile of Lacks and the manner in which biological information was used without consent and continues to be traded in a multi-million dollar industry of global tissue exchange, raise pertinent questions about modern medical ethics, while also shining a light on the continued impact of racial discrimination on American society,” Hermsen adds.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks received the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and a film version is currently being developed by HBO and Oprah Winfrey. Skloot has also written for The New York Times Magazine and Discover and served as a correspondent for NPR’s Radiolab and PBS’ “Nova Science Now.”