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2019 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award Winner: MERIT Health Leadership Academy


On a given Saturday you might find a Baltimore City high school student walking the halls of one of many Johns Hopkins centers and departments with a doctor or researcher. Over the next 10 years or so these same students will be walking the halls of Johns Hopkins and other institutions around the world as leading researchers and medical professionals. 

On October 5, 2019, the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute presented their annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award to MERIT Health Leadership Academy. Working collaboratively with Johns Hopkins Medicine, MERIT educates, mentors, and provides resources to students from across Baltimore City to enter the field of medicine.

Devin Harris

Devin Harris, MERIT’s 2021 class president

“MERIT’s mission is to educate and empower students from underrepresented backgrounds to become health care professionals and change agents, equipped to advance equity”, said Devin Harris, MERIT’s 2021 class president who accepted the award on Saturday.

With efforts led by Jake Weinfeld, MERIT executive director, Dr. Sherita Golden, Vice President and Chief Diversity officer, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Dr. David Hellman Vice Dean and Chairman, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and a dedicated team of community and Hopkins experts, students are connected and exposed to the endless possibilities they can explore in medicine, STEM, and community health. With a goal of creating a more diverse healthcare work force, students attend Saturday classes, participate in externships with health professionals at Johns Hopkins, and go on college tours. To date, 100% of MERIT Scholars have been accepted to four-year universities; and if that wasn’t already impressive, recently, MERIT class of 2019 collectively earned more than $9.5 million in scholarships to these universities.

HLMA 2019 recipients - Devin Harris and Julian Walker

Devin Harris, MERIT 2021 Class President, and Julian Walker, MERIT program manager

Upon accepting the award, Devin Harris had this to say, “We know that health system needs more health professionals who look like me and come from the backgrounds that I come from […] receiving this award in honor of Henrietta Lacks legacy validates the hard work me and my fellow MERIT Scholars put in every single day and every Saturday.”

The group plans to use the $15,000 award to expand its impact by increasing the students they serve from 94 to 225 scholars in the 2019-2020 academic year. In addition, the award will also deepen their programming so that they can empower their scholars to work as health leaders in their communities.

To learn more about the MERIT Health Leadership Academy, visit our YouTube channel to watch the official Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award video.

About MERIT Health Leadership Academy

Founded in 2010, MERIT educates and empowers students from underrepresented backgrounds to become health professionals and change agents who advance equity. You can learn more about them on their website.

*The Urban Health Institute would also like to congratulate our runner ups for the 2019 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award. Shepherd’s Clinic and Sisters Together and Reaching, Inc. (STAR) will both receive a $2,500 award for their ongoing collaborations with Johns Hopkins.