OUR FOUNDER & BOARD PRESIDENT 

Download the PDF version of the I Am Abel Foundation Founder and Board President, Dr LaMenta Conway, MD, MPH

Dr. Conway believes, despite popular opinion, that there is plenty good to come out of Englewood.

  After all, she was born and raised there and defied immeasurable odds to arise successfully from a community many describe as blighted and hopeless.

 

Today she is living out her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.  

 Trained in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois, she 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 by most as simply “Sweetie,” A childhood name that followed her first into her semi-professional career as a singer of soulful gospel music and later into professional circles from the hospital floors to the boardroom.  Most of her mentees affectionately know her as “Dr. Sweetie,” a name they created. 

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 life long 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.  "Violence exists where there is hopelessness.  It will knock on every door until it is answered.  We can’t rest until we change this narrative,” Dr. Conway explains. 

 “But mentors changed my life and gave me a second chance when it was nearly too late. You must SEE IT TO BE IT,” Dr. Conway exclaims.  “Our devoted physicians are creating legacy by proxy right within our communities” and she is expecting these future physicians to do the same.  “If not us then who? If not now then when?” 

 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 didn't understand how we are all as humans connected one to the other; that we are not just responsible for our brother - but we are a reflection of them and we are in fact "our brother's keeper."  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.  Those children would in turn ignite the dreams of those who would follow them breaking generational curses and changing our communities from the inside out.  "We all are teachers and each one must reach one," Dr. Conway explains.

I AM ABEL FOUNDATION started with the 100 Hearts Program that would empower bright, young community leaders to become activists in the realm of “self help care and violence prevention,” and many of the students became certified in CPR/FirstAid/Stop The Bleed and would teach their fellow students, certifying over 1000 CHicago area students.

The organization, however, would become a comprehensive organization whose reach was far beyond what Dr. Conway initially imagined and would become focused on developing socially conscious medical scholars that would use the platform of medicine to create equity, close gaps and create safer, healthier communities. 

The flagship program of I AM ABEL FOUNDATION is it's Urban Bridges Medical Mentoring Physician Pipeline Program designed to offer 1:1 physician mentoring, academic advising and scholarly support in the areas of STEM.  Students benefit from intense clinical and pre-med opportunities for underrepresented Chicago area students.  Students also have a number of service opportunities both locally and abroad along with unique global healthcare opportunities in countries like Haiti, Cuba, Costa Rica and more.  

The foundation now has 100s of students in their physician pipeline programs.  It is further credited with helping students get accepted into medical school with countless future physicians in the pipeline whose academic successes are through the roof.  “We have created new ceilings for our kids now and they are reaching them.  They are well aware that mediocre will never do,” described Dr. Conway. 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.  

As for Dr. Conway’s journey, she remembers starting Rush Medical College as a married mother with 3 children ages 3, 2 and 6 months old and graduating with the Rush University are esteemed David Jones Peck Award 4 years later.

Now her 3 children are all grown up and one is following in his mother’s footsteps. Her “baby” Corey Conway, is starting medical school this year and she couldn’t be more proud.  The eldest is a lawyer and State’s Attorney and the middle son is completing computer engineering.

Her husband and staunchest supporter, Jacques, is District Superintendent in the United Methodist Church. Finally, her mother Louise is her greatest inspiration.

  Outside of medicine, she loves singing and has performed throughout the U.S.  Her most beloved moment was opening for Chicago legend Albertina Walker but she has also performed alongside Otis Clay, Dorothy Norwood and Rance Allen to name a few. 

Pictured: Dr LaMenta "Sweetie" Conway with Living Single star, Comedian Kim Coles. Dr Conway receives the Phenomenal Woman's Award, Black Women's Expo Chicago 2019

  “Never walk through a door without leaving a wedge so that others may follow.  We have been tremendously blessed to do this work.  And what do you do when you’ve been blessed?  You pass it on!” 

Dr  LaMenta "Sweetie" Conway, MD, MPH

Her words to her mentees at every Saturday Morning Professor session 

Today life is focused on medicine, the foundation and her work in corrections.  She and her growing band of Chicago Top Docs have mentored countless Chicago area students but she recalls that her very own dream seemed as though it would derail and die in Englewood. 

 “But mentors changed my life and gave me a second chance when it was nearly too late. You must SEE IT TO BE IT,” Dr. Conway exclaims.  “Our devoted physicians are creating legacy by proxy right within our communities” and she is expecting these future physicians to do the same.  “If not us then who? If not now then when?” 

 Her words to her mentees at every Saturday Morning Professor session are “Never walk through a door without leaving a wedge so that others may follow.  We have been tremendously blessed to do this work.  And what do you do when you’ve been blessed?  You pass it on!” 

Dr. Sweetie Conway is heavily requested on the speaker circuit.  As an “insider” who grew up in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most challenged communities, she’s frank, relatable and passionate which pours out in all of her talks. 

She’s a beloved motivational speaker for youth and young adults alike. For the medical community, she also has particular expertise and interest in the areas of Correctional Medicine, Physician and Medical Student Suicide, launching nonprofits and Transgender Health to name a few.  To book Dr. Conway, email info@iamabel.org.   

© 2015 - 2020         I Am Abel Foundation      www.iamabel.org

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