School of Public Health

Video: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” Expert Panel Discussion

The book and film “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” touches on a wide range of issues, from scientific research and disease prevention to ethics and race. On Oct. 12, the Institute of Public Health Genetics at the UW School of Public Health hosted a screening of the film. It was followed by a panel of campus experts who are using an interdisciplinary approach to improve population health.

Watch the video of the panel discussion. Bios of participants are below.


Gil Omenn, MD, PhD

Gil Omenn is the former School of Public Health Dean. He was recruited to SPH in 1981 by former Dean Robert Day. Dr. Omenn eventually succeeded him and led this dynamic, science-based School for the next 15 years. Two early initiatives he helped launch included the Cancer Prevention Research Unit with Fred Hutch and the CDC-sponsored Health Promotion Research Center with the Seattle/King County Housing Authority. Later, Dr. Omenn helped develop the Institute for Public Health Genetics as a presidential initiative with participation from multiple UW units, including the Schools of Law and Medicine.

Now, almost 20 years later, Dr. Omenn continues to be closely tied to the UW School of Public Health.

Expert Faculty Panelists

Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD
Gail Jarvik is the Arno G. Motulsky Endowed Chair in Medicine, Joint Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences and Head of the Division of Medical Genetics, an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology and an Affiliate Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She is a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, and has been made a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies, “in recognition of extraordinary service to the National Academy of Science.” Dr. Jarvik is interested in the genetic basis of complexly inherited genetic diseases and has a long-standing interest in biomedical ethics.

Read more of Gail’s bio:

Jay Shendure, MD, PhD
Jay Shendure is a Professor in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Shendure’s research is focused on developing and applying new technologies in genomics. In 2013, his lab published the genome sequence of the HeLa cell line in agreement with Henrietta Lacks’ family.

Read more of Jay’s bio:

Tim Thornton, PhD
Tim Thornton is the Robert W. Day Endowed Professor of Public Health and an Associate Professor in the University of Washington Department of Biostatistics. His research interest is in the area of statistical genetics, with an emphasis on statistical methodology for genetic association studies of complex traits in samples with relatedness, ancestry admixture and/or population structure.

Read more of Tim’s bio:

Wylie Burke, MD, PhD
Wylie Burke is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington, Adjunct Professor of Medicine (in the Division of Medical Genetics) and Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her work focuses on the ethical and policy implications of genetic information in research, public health and clinical care.

Read more of Wylie’s bio: