One Community/One Book

Chapter 9: Turner Station

She pointed to to a cracked red vinyl barber’s chair, which she spun to face a small television next to the hair dryers. “You have to watch this tape,” she said, handing me the remote and a set of keys.  She started to walk out the door, then turned.  “Don’t you open this door for nothing or nobody but me, you hear?” she said.  “And don’t you miss nothing in that video — use that rewind button, watch it twice if you have to, but don’t you miss nothing.”

Then she left, locking the door behind her.

What rolled in front of me on that television screen was a one-hour BBC documentary about Henrietta and the HeLa cells, called The Way of All Flesh, which I’d been trying to get a copy of for months.  It opened to sweet music and a young black woman who wasn’t Henrietta, dancing in front of the camera.  A British man began narrating, his voice melodramatic, like he was telling a ghost story that just might be true. [pp. 74-75]

Take some time to view Adam Curtis’ documentary The Way of All Flesh. You can view it online below, at the Internet Archive, or at Adam Curtis’ own blog, or you can get it on DVD at Briscoe Library (call number QZ 206 C2155 2007).
The film is a great way to begin to see the faces and hear the voices of the characters in the book — you can find them at the following points in the film:
  • Henrietta’s cousin Fred Garrett [7'05"],
  • Dr George Gey [8'20"],
  • Leonard Hayflick [14'25"]
  • Dr Howard Jones [4'58"],
  • Mary Kubicek [6'05"],
  • Henrietta’s daughter-in-law Bobbette Cooper Lacks [40'37"],
  • Henrietta’s son David “Sonny” Lacks Jr [40'57"],
  • Henrietta’s daughter Deborah “Dale” Lacks [41'29"],
  • Henrietta’s son Lawrence Lacks [44'07"]
  • Henrietta’s son Zakariyya [49'20"]
  • Walter Nelson-Rees [13'23"],
  • Dr Roland Patillo [3'56"],
  • Robert Stevenson [12'07"],
  • Henrietta’s cousin Sadie Sturdivant [2'33"]

At the same time, Adam Curtis’ approach to the Henrietta Lacks story is somewhat different from Rebecca Skloot’s approach.  From what you have read and seen so far, in what ways do the book and the film seem most similar, and in what ways do they seem most different?

Former student visits childhood home of Henrietta Lacks

Virginia Historical Marker- Henrietta LacksThank you to Falisha Carman, a graduate of the School of Nursing, who shared this recent photo of a  historical marker commemorating Henrietta Lacks and her contributions to medical research.  The photo was taken in Clover, Virginia.  Falisha commented that she might never have known about Henrietta Lacks if she had not read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot read as part of  the UT Health Science Center’s One Community/One Book project in 2010.

Hear Dr. Louise Aronson speak about the One Community One Book selection for Fall 2013

A History of the Present Illness

A History of the Present Illness is the One Community One Book selection for 2013.

The Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics and The Libraries are pleased to announce that Louise Aronson, physician-writer, geriatrician and author of A History of the Present Illness, a collection of stories, has accepted an invitation to speak at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio on Thursday, November 14, 2013, as part of a One Community/One Book project.

Dr. Aronson will be in town to give the keynote presentation and lead a workshop at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

You can hear Dr. Aronson speak about her book here.

From Kirkus Review:

“This collection of short stories… take place in and around a San Francisco hospital. But the stories are less concerned with medical details than with the inner lives of the characters and the psychological toll that health issues take on caregivers, patients and their families.”

Copies of A History of the Present Illness are available in the Briscoe Library, at the Ramirez Library in Harlingen, and in the Laredo Regional Campus Library.  Click here to link to the full catalog record.

Copies will also be available in San Antonio at the UT Health Science Center Bookstore for $18, 25% off the retail price.

We are excited about this One Community One Book selection and hope you will consider adding A History of the Present Illness to your summer reading list.

One Community/One Book is made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Johns Hopkins remembers Henrietta Lacks

Yesterday marked the 59th anniversary of Henrietta Lacks’ death.  This past Saturday, October 2, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research sponsored the First Annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, which featured Rebecca Skloot as the speaker, and members of the Lacks family as honored guests.  Writer and JHU nursing student Meg Adams offers some insightful observations about the event in this blog post:

More than anything else, the story of the Lacks family and their drawn-out ordeal is illustrative of the necessity for better communication between the general public and the scientific community. There is a huge need for “science translators,” advocates to bridge the gap between research, and everyone else—the public that research is intended to benefit. In Baltimore, white researchers need to be taught why their patients are wary and mistrustful of them. “I have been having patients refuse to be in studies for years, because they thought we would inject them with AIDS,” one researcher said. “I thought it was this crazy conspiracy theory thing. Now, [after reading Skloot’s book], I understand [why there is mistrust].” …

As part of this morning’s lecture, Mr. James Potter gave a presentation on the human cell. His projected slides zoomed in on the human body, magnitude by magnitude, until we could see the tiny building blocks we are made of, cells. Walking out of the lecture hours later, though, I couldn’t help but think that the most important lesson that day was not to zoom in, but to zoom out. Sixty years ago, Hopkins failed to sit down and explain the HeLa cells, or their significance, to the Lacks family. But what Rebecca Skloot did with her book was equally important: she sat the scientific community down and had them zoom out, magnitude by magnitude, until the microscopic HeLa cells that have made up so many scientists’ worlds for so long were shown for what they really were—a person, Mrs. Henrietta Lacks.

It is clear that wider exploration of the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family has led to a great deal 0f reflection and soul-searching at Johns Hopkins — the kind of reflection that would be beneficial for more of us to engage in.  In two recent pieces, key thinkers at Johns Hopkins discuss the lessons of HeLa and the Lacks Family’s ordeal:

For some additional context on the history of Johns Hopkins’ relationship with the Baltimore community, see Chapter 21 (“Night Doctors”) in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you were on the faculty or administration of JHU, how would you want the institution to address this chapter in its history?  Does that have any implications for your work and research at your own institution?

One Community/One Book 2012 selection tells stories of migrant life in South Texas

Photograph of author Elva Trevino HartThe UT Health Science Center Libraries’ popular One Community/One Book program will continue in the months ahead with reading and discussion of Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child, by Elva Treviño HartThe Libraries are pleased to announce that One Community/One Book 2012 recently received the support of Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the form of a community projects grant award.

The Health Science Center’s 4th One Community/One Book selection is a book with deep roots in South Texas. Author Elva Treviño Hart tells stories of growing up in Pearsall, Texas as the youngest child in a family of migrant farm workers who traveled north to Minnesota and Wisconsin over several summers in the 1950s to work in the beet fields.   The book details her family’s struggle to make a living and to overcome prejudice and poverty through education.  She also explores her family’s roots in Mexico, and the historical events that carried her father and his family north to Texas and beyond.  Barefoot Heart encourages reflection on a number of themes including the importance of family and community, education as a way out of poverty, cultural diversity in our own South Texas communities, and the promotion of cultural competence and empathy as we train tomorrow’s health care professionals.

Plans for One Community/One Book include workshops for discussion group leaders, book discussion groups, and several speaking engagements for the author from February 23-25, 2012.   Ms. Hart will speak on campus Friday, February 24 at 12:00 noon.  She will also speak on Saturday, February 25  at the Spring Conference of the Voelcker Biosciences Teacher Academy.  Copies of the book are available through the library, and the bookstore is selling Barefoot Heart at a 25% discount.

A book signing will follow Ms. Hart’s talk on February 24.

One Community/One Book 2012 is a collaborative effort between The Libraries, the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics, the Academic Center for Excellence in Teaching (ACET), and the San Antonio Public Library.  It is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For information about One Community/One Book, contact Susan Hunnicutt, Special Projects Librarian: Call 567-2406 or email

Download a printable flyer for One Community/One Book

More information will be available soon. Watch this space for more.

Humanities Texas Logo

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Book jacket image for The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThis year’s “One Community/One Book” selection for the UT Health Science Center is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

We invite you to read the book (or start with the excerpts linked below), and join the conversation!  You can start by leaving a comment on this post with your general impressions of the book, based on your reading of the excerpts or the book so far.

Over the next few weeks, we’d like to invite you to:

If you haven’t started the book yet, I’d invite you to read one of the following excerpts to learn more about the book’s topic and get a sense for the author’s style:

If you’ve read the excerpts above or started the book, what are your impressions so far? Please leave your comments on this post to let us know what you think.

Then come back to this blog over the next few weeks to continue the discussion with fellow readers, and consider more discussion topics.

  • Page 2 of 2
  • <
  • 1
  • 2