Lanla Conteh, MD, MPH
Lanla Conteh, MD, MPH
Ohio State University Medical Center
I was born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone. However, my family was forced to leave due to a military coup d’état. We sought asylum in the neighboring country, Guinea. However, moving from a former British colony to a French one created a challenge for our family in terms of work for my parents and education for the children. My parents decided to move us to The Gambia which was also English speaking like our home of Sierra Leone. In our new land, my father was able to work while my mother stayed home and stabilized our disrupted lives. We started school again and we thrived. When people ask who my heroes are, my answer is always my parents. I saw them lose everything and I watched them rebuild. They never grew bitter and their faith never wavered. We can view adversities in our lives as permanent blocks or as learning opportunities. We chose to view this as a learning opportunity. Material belonging are just that, material. I learned from an early age that people may take material things away, however, I could never be stripped of my faith, my dignity and my knowledge. This has been the guiding principle of my life. I aim to live with grit and grace in all circumstances.
I was fortunate to move to the United States in 1997 to finish 12th grade. Many Africans believe that America is the land of opportunity. Set foot here, work hard, and your dreams will be realized. In my naiveté, I too believed this. I have always wanted to be a physician, to serve others and heal the sick. With this singular focus in mind, I carried on. My dream took me to Emory University. As an undergraduate, I spent 3 years teaching second graders science in an inner city school. I will never forget their astonishment that here I was talking to them about college. Their world of education did not surpass high school. Here in America, I soon discovered, that despite it’s greatness, there were children living in environments that not only limited their potential, they were not even allowed to glimpse at what their potential could be. I believe education is the gateway to a better life. I hope I gave some of the children an opportunity to see beyond their windows.
After Emory, I moved to Cleveland to attend medical school at Case followed by a residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics before moving back South to Nashville to pursue Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology at Vanderbilt University. The opportunity to make an impact at Ohio State University Medical Center presented itself and I leaped at the chance. Throughout my journey and various positions of leadership at my institutions and in the community, I have never forgotten my second graders in Atlanta and the power of education and knowledge.