Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Conley

A grinning Emily (right) with wife Erin

A grinning Emily (right) with wife Erin

“A place for everyone.” Emily Conley had trouble deciding on just one word or phrase to describe AHP, but that came pretty close. She felt compelled to elaborate: “AHP is a place for everyone to be seen, cared for, healed.” It’s a place “to be part of the community.”

Emily, who has a PhD in neuroscience from Stanford University, joined AHP’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) in 2013. Her academic work focused on the genetics of mental health and neuropsychiatric diseases. “I was fascinated by how the circuits in the brain can essentially get messed up. . . . I wanted to look at that and understand how mental health issues occur in our brains.” Emily now works as the Manager of Business Development and Alliances at 23andMe, a DNA analysis biotech company. It was this interest that made her a perfect fit for understanding the importance of the work at AHP.

As a lesbian, Emily understands the hardships—including elevated rates of psychiatric conditions such as depression and substance use—that many in the LGBTQ community face. And, in making the decision to join the AHP CAB, she recalled that, “Mental health was definitely the hook for me.” Emily wants to help fight the stigma against the idea of mental health treatment so that people, particularly LGBTQ- and HIV-affected people, will feel free to access the care they need without fear of discrimination.

“The CAB is such an inspiring place to be,” Emily said. “Every time I leave a meeting, I have a huge list of more things that I want to do to help.” Emily enjoys trying to connect others in the community with AHP and helping out in any way that she can. “Being a part of the CAB at AHP has allowed me to meet so many interesting and diverse people. It’s fascinating to hear their stories in addition to being able to help out at AHP.”

Besides being a member of the CAB, Emily and her partner Erin Conley are on the Art for AIDS Host Committee, and sponsors of Art for AIDS. Emily is also an artist whose work has been accepted by the Art for AIDS jury. “It’s such an honor to be chosen to be in Art for AIDS,” said Emily. “There is also something extra special about creating a piece of work, donating it and knowing that it is helping me to give back to the community. It’s very inspiring.”

Having Emily Conley on the board at AHP has been inspiring for AHP staff as well. She is an advocate for LGBT rights and mental health within our community and is opening doors for people to discuss the importance of mental health issues. “I love that AHP is so inclusive of all people,” Emily said. We at AHP love her energy, commitment to fighting against stigma and for mental health, and are so grateful that she includes us, and our clients and community, in her world.