Alumni Success: Stephen Abel ‘09

Radiation oncology resident for Allegheny Health Network named to Pittsburgh Business Times 30 Under 30.

Stephen Abel ‘09

Dr. Stephen Abel ’09 says his parents always encouraged him to be the first in the family to go to college and supported his aspirations of becoming a doctor, even before he knew what kind he wanted to be.

Now the fourth-year radiation oncology resident at Allegheny Health Network says his mom and dad deserve some credit for the fact he has been named by the Pittsburgh Business Times to its annual “30 Under 30” honors.

“They were definitely advocates that encouraged me to go forward with college,” says Stephen. “You eventually believe in yourself, begin getting good grades and you find the confidence to keep pushing.”

Stephen majored in biology at RMU, and commuted from his home in Findlay Township so that he could keep a job as a pizza delivery driver. He was part of a small cohort of high achieving students at RMU who received scholarships from the National Science Foundation, and after graduation he went to Lake Erie College of Medicine.

Small classes taught by attentive professors were part of his success story at RMU, Stephen says. So was the school’s focus on presentation and communication, which taught skills he uses often today, such as at weekly meetings of other cancer doctors when they review laboratory results and scans and talk about the best course of action. It was enough for him to recommend RMU to his younger brother, Blake, who also graduated from RMU and is now a financial advisor.

The doctor Stephen shadowed when he was starting out in medical school was a pediatrician, so that’s what he said he also wanted to be. Then in his second year he began to learn the mix of physics and biology involved in the use of radiation beams to treat cancer, and he knew that was what he wanted to do.

Dealing with patients is Stephen’s favorite part of the job. “It’s really gratifying to be able to help people,” he says. “Sometimes it may just be helping them cope with their pain and being there with them, other times you are helping to cure them.”

When he’s not at work, Stephen enjoys hiking with his fiancée. The more dramatic the scenery, the better. Their most recent hike has been his favorite so far, to Zion National Park in Utah, where they enjoyed views from the cliffs at Angel’s Landing and through the Narrows, a picturesque steep-walled canyon.