Convocation 2011 - See event videos!

September 14, 2011

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Wheelock College formally opened its 2011-2012 academic year on September 14 with a Convocation Ceremony focusing on the disparity in access to healthcare and treatment, the theme at the centerpiece of Wheelock's summer reading book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

Husband and wife medical educators and researchers Dr. W. Michael Byrd and Dr. Linda A Clayton—who along with former Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner and arts pioneer Lois Weisberg were each awarded an honorary Wheelock doctorate in education—spoke at the Convocation about their lifetime of work shaping health policies to improve patient care and access to care, particularly for African-Americans and other disadvantaged minorities in the US.

Dr. Byrd said in his remarks that Wheelock's mission of improving the lives of children and families has never been more important than today, when so many families have little or no access to quality healthcare. He called on students at the College's 2011 Convocation to take inspiration from their summer reading book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," and help reconnect the nation's healthcare system to its social system.

(See more video highlights from Dr. Byrd's speech on the Convocation Video page. Download the full text of his speech here.)

In "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot, readers are introduced to Henrietta Lacks, the real live woman whose cancer cells—removed and used in research around the world without her knowledge or permission—were used to achieve some of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. The book explores the interplay of race, poverty, and science and the irony that although her cells had been used to make some of the greatest discoveries of this century, her family members continued to struggle to gain adequate healthcare.

In her remarks, Dr. Clayton said she learned 17 years into her medical career about the injustices suffered by Lacks and her family. That knowledge got her started on her life's work: improving access to quality healthcare for all people and ensuring that every patient is treated with dignity and respect. Dr. Byrd cited the leadership example of Wheelock founder Lucy Wheelock and called on all current Wheelock students to take the lead in reshaping the medical landscape so that social issues are an intrinsic part of medical policy making.

(See more highlights from Dr. Clayton's speech on the Convocation Video page. Download the full text of her speech here.)

See biographies of Dr. Clayton, Dr. Byrd, and Ms. Weisberg on the Convocation 2011 Honorees page.

Download the full text of Dr. Clayton and Dr. Byrd's comments here.

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