Students in the College 1 Class gathered in Creveling Lounge and the Sexson Auditorium on Nov. 16 for the second Pathways Student Conference.

The College 1 class is part of the Pathways program, designed to introduce incoming PCC students to college classes and life. If students enroll in the Pathways program, they are guaranteed four classes in the first semester. One of those classes is College 1.

As part of the College 1 class, and the One Book, One College program, the students read ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot. The book is about Lacks, a black woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951. Since then, because the unique immortality of the cells, they have become invaluable to research, helping to develop the polio vaccine. They even have their own name, the HeLa Cells.

The students of the College 1 class presented a display of the many moral, ethical, legal and historical issues brought up in Skloot’s book.

“Our students are going to have that real intellectual conference experience,” said Professor Shelagh Rose, Faculty Lead for College 1. “Where they get to present their research, see other students research, and an internationally renowned speaker talking to them about the topics they have been reading about.”

The Creveling Lounge was packed with students milling about the many displays dealing with issues raised in the book, from sexual diseases to feminism to medical ethics to racism and discrimination.

Stephanie Yoro and Mayra Sandoval’s display was about the moral problems with the Tuskegee experiments. “We are presenting the Tuskegee experiments, sort of similar to the Henrietta story, but treated even worse,” said Yoro and Sandoval.

Brian Lee did his display on the ways to contract cervical cancer and where it manifests in the body. “[Henrietta Lacks] died from cervical cancer and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Lee.

That evening at Sexson Auditorium, Professor Les Rothenberg of UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, both an attorney and ethics consultant, discussed the difference between ethics and law and how it pertained to the HeLa cells.  He used the straightforward example of slavery, where it is not ethical, but was for a long time legal.

More to the point of the HeLa cells, Rothenberg asked the question: Doctors and hospitals have the legal right to your tissue when removed in surgery, but is that ethical?

After Rothenberg’s talk, a panel of four including Rothenberg and three PCC Instructors, Christopher Jimenez y West, Jessica Igoe, and Harold Martin answered questions from the audience about their concerns raised by the Skloot’s book and the HeLa cells.

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