One City of Hope, One Story: a Recap

Over the last 6 months or so, several of us in the library have been privileged to work with Organizational Development on a series of programs related to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (see previous posts here and here). This compelling story touched many at City of Hope who read it, as shown by the number of people who turned out, often during their lunchtime, to attend the various programs. This series of events kicked off One City of Hope, One Story and launched the Diversity and Inclusion Book and Film Club, part of City of Hope’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative. This post recaps the events, with some numbers and a few pictures.


Sonny and Kim Lacks tour the lab of Dr. Robert Hickey, PhD.

Our goals for this series of programs were to:

  • Explore issues such as health disparities, experimentation on marginalized groups, bioethics, race, access to health care, and scientific discovery
  • Provide an opportunity for City of Hope community members to interact with colleagues across the different entities of the organization and build connections in order to break down silos

To achieve those goals, we organized the following programs:

  • 9 discussion groups – 67 participants.  Lisa Hart and Kenna Cottrill from City of Hope’s Organizational Development Department prepared a detailed resource guide for discussion group participants.
  • The Way of All Flesh (documentary film) – 74 participants
  • Miss Evers’ Boys – feature film. 13 participants
  • Moving Beyond HeLa (panel discussion) – 86 participants.  Our panelists were:Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of Medical Quality, clinical associate professor, and head of our committee on recruitment of minorities to clinical trials; Kimlin Tam Ashing-Giwa, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education; Shannon Chism, M.H.A., systems analyst in the department of Analytics and Decision Support and leader of one of our diversity resource groups, Connecting People of African Descent; Bob Hickey, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the translational proteomics core facility in the Department of Radiation Biology and user of HeLa cells; Christine Hui, M.P.H., director of the Office of Human Research Subjects Protection (OHRSP); Eileen Smith, M.D., associate director of Clinical Research in Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation and chair of our Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • An Afternoon with Sonny Lacks – 185 participants
  • An Evening With Sonny Lacks, held at and cosponsored by Pasadena Public Library – approximately 200 participants

In all, 263 individuals from City of Hope participated in at least one program, along with 14 guests from off-campus and about 200 community members at the Pasadena event. The City of Hope participants included 129 from the Medical Center, 91 from the Beckman Research Institute, 18 from Business Support Services, and 14 from Philanthropy and External Affairs.

Sonny and Kim Lacks tour Dr. Linda Malkas' lab

Sonny and Kim Lacks tour Dr. Linda Malkas’ lab

Evaluations of the programs were generally positive and included lots of comments. Here are a couple of comments that show how people made connections between the book, the programming, and the work they do here at City of Hope:

I’m grateful for COH for giving me the opportunity to know about the HeLa cells and the person behind them. We can’t do our job right without knowing the past and the people who helped along the way, the present – why we are here, and the future, what we hope our endeavors will do for humankind.

The ethical issue of informed patient consent is relevant to researchers in the biological research field who handle patient samples. The Lacks’ battle with informed consent is a nice reminder that the biological samples we receive come from real people, with real families and concerns: they must be handled with the utmost care and respect.

[The Panel] will help me spread understanding of research and use of human material. As a scientist and now being involved in business and patenting, I don’t always understand an outsider’s point of view.

Sonny and Kim Lacks share memories of their mother with the audience and moderator Dr. April Sorrell, MD.

Sonny and Kim Lacks share memories of their mother with the audience and moderator April Sorrell, MD.

I owe a big thank you to the following people, who, along with me, made up the planning committee for all the programs:

  • Lisa Hart, Organizational Development & Diversity Consultant, also known as our fearless leader and project manager
  • Laura Brown, Clinical Librarian
  • Kenna Cottrill, Organizational Development & Diversity Specialist

Also, many thanks to all those who volunteered to help at the events. We couldn’t have done it without you!

HeLa Panel-19

L-R: Christine Hui, Eileen Smith, Joseph Alvarnas, Lisa Hart (moderator), Kimlin Ashing-Giwa, Shannon Chism, Robert Hickey.

We hope to do another series of events, related to a different book, sometime in the future. If you would like to suggest a book, please feel free to leave a comment on this post. The book should relate in some way to diversity and inclusion and the work done at City of Hope.


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