In this episode, Rasa chats with Dr. LaMenta Conway, founder of the I Am Abel Foundation, about creating communities that allow the dream of becoming a physician a possibility for underserved youth. Trained in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois, Dr. LaMenta Conway has celebrated over 22 years as a physician with most of her career teaching in top academic hospitals in the Midwest. In her current professional role, she is Deputy Chief of Medicine for the Illinois Department of Health where she and her team are responsible for the medical care of +40K offenders in custody in the Illinois State Prisons.
She is known best for her warm and exuberant personality and bedside manner as a physician and clinical educator devoted to the care of vulnerable populations. But an act of violence would inspire a powerful work of advocacy that would change her trajectory and become her life’s legacy. Dr. Conway decided to formalize her lifelong legacy of mentoring young people in the art of compassionate medicine and service when one of her favorite 14-year-old cousins, full of promise and talent, was paralyzed following a gunshot wound to the spine intended for someone else. This pivotal moment followed the murder of her 15-year-old cousin on Mother’s Day just 6 months earlier.
She realized that many of the younger, misguided youth from these communities not only lacked mentors to guide and position them for success but they also did not understand how we are all as humans connected one to the other. Thus she created I AM ABEL FOUNDATION, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that she describes as a “mentoring scholarly community” whose motto is “Excellence Period. Serve Always.”
The foundation is focused on community and global service with pipelines to medicine and STEM with the objective of bridging socioeconomic gaps so that all of Chicago’s children would have a shot at the not so impossible dream. Through conferences, workshops and community outreach, the foundation has impacted thousands of kids already that will one day become our community’s future researchers, leaders, advocates, healers and healthcare heroes.
Episode produced by: Rasa Valiauga
Episode recording date: 11/4/21
Becoming a mentor: https://www.iamabel.org/physician-medical-student-mentor