October and February mark the annual celebration of African descendants’ achievements and is a time for recognizing their central role in our Global History. At H.E.L Group, we are committed to taking meaningful actions to ensure diverse communities are represented, welcome, and supported at work.
- Inspiring conversation in Black History Month
- Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cell line
- Using social media for good
- We are all one community
- Inspire the future
Inspiring conversation in Black History Month
At H.E.L, we have embraced the importance of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity. Out of that mission, the Springboard Group was established to promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, delivering kick-starter events to educate and inspire conversations.
During UK Black History Month, we carried out several awareness events to spotlight key people and achievements in the scientific community; Black history is being made every day, in all kinds of ways.
Collage image of the ten springboard volunteer members.
(Top row, left to right; Mireille Epstein, Louise Madden, Aliko Chanda, Mike Reid, and Jada Whitmore.
Bottom row, left to right: Tony Heywood, Emily Smith, Sarennah Longworth-Cook, Susan Martin, and Keith Murray).
Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cell line
Black History Month at H.E.L. commenced with a company discussion acknowledging Henrietta Lacks. An African American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the HeLa cell line, the cells are used to test the effects of various toxins or drugs without experimenting on humans. These cells were vital in biological research and have led to crucial discoveries in medicine. However, as we dig further into her story, we see the racial inequalities in U.S. healthcare and research. She was treated at one of the few hospitals that gave medical care to black people. Henrietta Lacks sadly passed from cervical cancer in October 1951, and her cells were passed on to researchers for decades without her or her family’s consent.
Over the years, the wrongs committed to Lacks and her family have since been rectified. She is a pioneer in her own right; however, many do not know her importance in modern-day medical science. Henrietta Lacks’ story was an excellent opportunity to open a discussion of key figures, past and present, whose efforts have changed the lives of many.
“Is Black History Month still relevant?”: Screengrab taken from a presentation given on company all-hands during UK Black History Month 2021.
Using social media for good
For October 2021, we posted weekly stories of people of African heritage on our social media and sent internal emails to keep our work colleagues engaged in the discussions. One great example is the story of an inspiring researcher, Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, whose passion for the sciences started in high school led to her successful career. Firstly, she became a biological trainer at the National Institute of Health before enrolling in her Ph.D. program to develop vaccine antigens for SARS and MERS. Her career in immunology led Dr. Cobbett to be at the forefront of developing the vaccine protecting us from COVID-19. Though a renowned immunologist and a significant force in her field, she also uses her platform to advocate for STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community.