Behind the Breakthroughs
The Your Stories Podcast

Hear candid conversations between people conquering cancer — patients, their family and friends, and doctors and researchers working to help us all.

Dr. Clyde Yancy in a white coat, arms crossed, standing outdoors and facing forward.
Dr. Clyde Yancy vintage photo in sepia color. He's in a research laboratory.
Behind the Breakthroughs
The Lessons of Henrietta Lacks
Over the past 70 years, some of the biggest advancements in medical care have been linked to the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks, a young Black woman who died of cervical cancer at age 31. Though she was just one woman among generations of patients whose cells were harvested without their knowledge or consent, Lacks’ cells would have a particularly enduring impact on scientific progress across medical fields, including cancer research. Her story is synonymous with Black history and medicine, remaining all too resonant for Black patients in the U.S. and abroad.

To help connect the dots, Your Stories welcomed Dr. Clyde Yancy, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University who also sits on the Board of Directors of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. Launched in 2010, the foundation supports patients and families who’ve been directly affected by research conducted using their biological materials without their consent. In this episode, Dr. Yancy provides insight into the historical and current realities of structural inequity in medical research and the ongoing need to foster greater equity for every patient.

Photo credit (top): Laura Brown, American Heart Association
Your Stories
The Woman Whose Cells Lived On

Until just 10 years ago, few people knew of the late Henrietta Lacks, let alone the lasting impact her cells would have on medicine and healthcare, including cancer research. Before Lacks passed away from cervical cancer at age 31, her biological materials were harvested for decades of research without her knowledge or consent. This was historically a common practice, but especially so for Black patients. Lacks' cells have since been used for several advancements in modern medicine and cancer care. In recent years, however, Lacks’ story has entered the public consciousness as a reflection of the ongoing realities of structural inequity prevalent in and beyond the medical field.

In this Your Stories episode, Dr. Clyde Yancy — a member of the Board of Directors of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation and vice dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Northwestern University — shares an array of insight into Henrietta Lacks’ life and impact. Annually cited among the top 1% of scientific authors worldwide, Dr. Yancy focuses much of his research on health disparities and patient outcomes. Here, he speaks with Dr. Don Dizon about what makes the case of Henrietta Lacks so significant and discusses the ongoing necessity of ensuring that Black patients are equitably represented in cancer research.

The pandemic taught us that the absence of health in any one of us affects the health of all of us. So, from a global perspective, it really is necessary for us to take a universal approach in our study of life sciences and our dispensation of health resources.
Dr. Clyde Yancy (Photo Credit: Laura Brown, Northwestern Memorial Hospital)