Study Guide

Christoph Lengauer in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

Christoph Lengauer

Lengauer is our science superhero. His respect in reaching out to the family—of meeting their desire to truly understand their mother's contribution to science—models the kind of compassionate behavior that should govern all doctor/patient relationships.

After a lifetime of being brushed aside by doctors and researchers, the Lacks family finds a friend and advocate in Lengauer, who invites Deborah and Zakariyya to see the labs in which HeLa cells are cultivated and studied.

He explains the basics of cell biology and shows the Lackses their mother's cells through microscopes. But most importantly, he allows Deborah the chance to hold a vial of Henrietta's cells, which is the first opportunity she'd ever had to "touch" her mom.

Give Shmoop a minute here to grab a Kleenex…

Lengauer's initial gesture has grown into something called Microscope Day, in which members of the newest generation of Lackses can come into the labs at Hopkins and see Henrietta's cells in action. PR move? Maybe. But it's also good community building, a step toward rebuilding the broken trust between doctors and the African American community in Baltimore.

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