Darwin Conwell, MD, joined the University of Kentucky in April 2022 as a professor and the Jack M. Gill Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine. Since then, he’s become a recognizable fixture of the UK College of Medicine and UK HealthCare. 

After graduating with his medical degree at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Conwell completed his residency at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, followed by a fellowship at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and later a Master of Science at the University of Michigan. He served as a lecturer and associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Harvard Medical School Department of Medicine before joining the faculty of The Ohio State University, and later, the University of Kentucky. 

A medical pancreatologist by training, Dr. Conwell has a vested interest in treating patients, as well as conducting research, and educating the community at large about gastrointestinal disorders.  Having attained numerous academic milestones, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, tenured professorship, and endowed chair positions, he dedicates himself to guiding others along their paths to success. Embracing the mantra of "helping others climb their mountain," Dr. Conwell embodies the spirit of mentorship by sharing his experiences, wisdom, and support with his colleagues and trainees.

As a non-traditional research track fellow, previously serving as a hospitalist and conducting liver research, Kshitij Thakur, MD, sought guidance in his growing interest in gastrointestinal disorders and navigating the complexities of an academic career. 

Enter Dr. Conwell. 

For the last year and a half, Dr. Thakur has experienced his mentorship firsthand and noted the transformative impact it has had on his education and career. “I've had quite a few research mentors, but I've never had this much of an impactful mentor before,” he said. 

At conferences, Dr. Conwell will invite his mentees to the podium to serve as co-moderators or to judge posters alongside him. This hands-on experience has been “invaluable” to Dr. Thakur. He also helps his mentees connect with like-minded colleagues, pushing them to share details of their latest projects or research interests. 

“He really helped me feel heard and not invisible at these things,” said Dr. Thakur. “I would be if I were on my own, but with his support, people were noticing me and that was something that really helped me feel like, 'you know what, I can do this.'”

Through his approach to mentorship, Dr. Conwell fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among his teams that transcend traditional hierarchical boundaries through random phone calls, late-night emails, and genuine interest in their lives.

“With Dr. Conwell, it's just the personal connection he's able to make with you. Dr. Conwell will just call out of the blue to check on you and ask how you’re doing.”

His accessibility, approachability, and unwavering support for his teams are nothing new. His former mentees from Ohio State, Beth Israel, and Cleveland Clinic, to name a few, gathered last fall at the American Pancreas Association Conference where Dr. Conwell was honored with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Thakur, also in attendance, noted, “I heard so much about him from his past mentees, and the common theme was that his mentorship skills are just set apart. He will go to any extent to make sure that you're successful in your universe.”

Through collaborative research projects, joint conference presentations, and networking opportunities, Dr. Conwell has empowered Dr. Thakur to realize his potential and transition to a career focused on pancreas medicine. Looking ahead to his fellowship graduation this June, Dr. Thakur said, “thanks to him, I've changed my career trajectory. I'm going to be doing another fellowship that's pancreas-focused and hope to carry forward the pancreas clinic here at UK in the coming years.”

Dr. Conwell's wife, Kathy, is also a big part of his support system. Her presence at conferences, events, and community outreach initiatives reflects their shared commitment to empowering future generations of physicians and researchers. “You can’t talk about Dr. Conwell without mentioning Kathy,” said Dr. Thakur. “She is by his side at every event, every conference, showing up for us just as much as he does.” 

His legacy as a chair extends beyond clinical and academic achievements to embody the values of compassion, integrity, and lifelong learning. Through his dedication to nurturing talent, fostering collaboration, and serving the community, Dr. Conwell inspires the next generation of physicians to strive for excellence and make a positive impact in the world. 

The department of internal medicine is the largest in the College of Medicine and at the University of Kentucky with approximately 300 faculty, 88 residents, 40 fellows, 140 advanced practice providers, and over 320 staff members.