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Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award

Honoring outstanding community-university partnerships in Baltimore City



Congratulation to Thread: The New Social Fabric for receiving the 2021 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award!

To learn more about Thread and their work, click here


The Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award was established in honor of former Turner Station resident and Johns Hopkins cancer patient Henrietta Lacks, whose cells helped make possible ground-breaking advances in medical research. The Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute (UHI) offers this $15,000 award to Baltimore City community-based programs working in partnership with Johns Hopkins faculty, students, or staff to highlight the importance of community-university collaborations, recognize the accomplishments which can be achieved by such partnerships, and continue to support the efforts of the partnership. 

The monetary gift and award is presented to the primary community partner in the collaboration during the annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture hosted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research


  • Any group working collaboratively for at least two years on a project that addresses one or more of the following issues in Baltimore City are eligible: poverty, community health and well-being, social justice, and neighborhood development.

  • Partnerships must include at least one community-based organization and at least one Johns Hopkins faculty or staff member.

  • Partnerships can either apply for themselves or be nominated by others. Those nominated in the past who did not receive the award may apply again.

  • Priority will be given to initiatives that improve child and adolescent health, education, well-being, aim to alleviate poverty, address inequalities and disparities, and/or strengthen the social fabric of a neighborhood.

Who is Henrietta Lacks?

historical photo of henrietta lacksHenrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who underwent treatment for an aggressive form of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. In addition to providing her with medical care, Henrietta’s doctor at Hopkins removed some of her cancerous cells to use in research without getting her written consent. It’s important to note that at this time the practice of obtaining informed consent from cell or tissue donors was essentially unknown among academic medical centers.

Despite receiving a high standard of medical treatment, Mrs. Lacks ultimately succumbed to this cancer at the young age of 31. However, her cells—called "HeLa" from the first two letters of her first and last names—remarkably continued to reproduce in the laboratory. Researchers around the world had been trying to identify or develop a standardized human cell line that could be reproduced in a laboratory setting; they knew that this kind of cell line would provide numerous opportunities to improve the human condition by allowing them to better understand, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases.

Learn about our past recipients!