‘mother of modern medicine’ henrietta lacks honored with smithsonian portrait

May 18, 2018
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This week the Smithsonian unveiled a new portrait of ‘The Mother of Modern Medicine’, Henrietta Lacks by Kadir Nelson. Henrietta Lacks might not be at the forefront of your mind, but she played a vital role in advancing medical technology in ways that still affect us today. Until 2010, very little was known about Lacks role in medicine. Lacks died in 1951 at the age of 31 from an aggressive form of cervical cancer. During her treatments prior to her death, a surgeon cut cells from her cervix without her consent. And those cells became the first cell line to reproduce outside of the human body. Known as the HeLa cells, Lacks’ DNA became responsible for the polio vaccine, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization, just to name a few.
Her new portrait will hang in the main entrance of the National Portrait Gallery through November.
“The Mother of Modern Medicine” by Kadir Nelson, oil on linen