Earlier this year it was announced that Henrietta Lacks—a Black woman whose cells were used without her consent to further medical research —would have her painting added to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Now, Lacks will be honored in another special way. Johns Hopkins University recently shared that it would name one of their campus buildings after Lacks, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Baltimore-based school revealed the news at the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture that’s hosted each year, the news outlet writes. The structure—which will stand on the university’s East Baltimore campus—is slated to open its doors in 2022. “[The building] will be a place that stands as an enduring and powerful testament to a woman who not only was the beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother to generations of the Lacks family, but the genesis of generations of miraculous discoveries that have changed the landscape of modern medicine and that have benefited in truth the much larger family of humanity entirely,” said the university’s president Ronald Daniels.
Lacks has complex ties to the university. According to the news outlet, her cells were taken from her without her knowledge while she underwent a medical procedure in the 1950s at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her cells, dubbed “HeLa” cells, were able to live outside of her body and furthered research related to in vitro fertilization and cancer treatments. She ended up passing away due to cervical cancer.
Her loved ones are honored that the school decided to name a building after her. “It is a proud day for the Lacks family. We have been working with Hopkins for many years now on events and projects that honor our grandmother,” Lacks’ granddaughter Jeri Lacks said in a statement, according to Diverse Issues. “They are all meaningful, but this is the ultimate honor, one befitting of her role in advancing modern medicine.”