Keven Stonewall can track his passion for science back to the fifth grade, when his class was learning about the microscope. Stonewall fell in love with the optical instrument and rushed home to ask his parents for one for Christmas.
Now 22, the Chicago native has expanded his passion for science and medicine and has joined the fight to find a cure for colon cancer.
During his freshman year of high school, Stonewall had a friend lose his uncle to cancer. After watching the effects on him and his family — emotionally and economically – Stonewall decided he had to make an impact in cancer research. By junior year, he was working at a research lab, he said.
According to Colon Cancer Alliance, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women, with mortality rates highest in African-Americans.
“In high school, it really hit me that I could do something that could really impact people,” he said.
Stonewall was 19 when he discovered that a mitoxantrone-based vaccine had an age-specific effect after he tested the vaccine on two groups of mice, separated by age, that had been injected with aggressive colon cancer cells. After measuring the tumors in both groups, results showed that 100 percent of the younger mice had developed an immunity to the cancer.
“After transitioning to college, I continued the research, but not only just working on one cancer,” he said. “I decided to attack neuroblastoma [a type of cancer found in an embryo or fetus] and osteosarcoma [a tumor found in bone].”
With medical school quickly approaching, Stonewall is keeping his options open for what field he plans to go into. Despite this, he hopes to work with children, in and outside the lab.
“At the end of the day, I love the research,” Stonewall said. “But I want to be able to give back to my people, and give back to the community.”
Stonewall currently helps mentor children at the Salvation Army in Madison, Wis., and hopes his story inspires people who feel like they don’t have representation in the scientific or medical field.
“One thing I always tell people is passion is love and love is passion,” Stonewall said. “The amount of energy you put into something you love, a family member or friend, you’ll go out of you way for them.
“Why don’t you put that same kind of energy into something your passionate about?”