When I was asked to deliver the keynote address today, I was met with mixed reactions. I did not see myself fitting the mold of speakers that I might expect at an event like this scholarship award ceremony. I felt as though I was perhaps too young and not accomplished enough, nor that I had enough wisdom to be able to deliver to such an accomplished and bright group as those gathered here today. But when opportunity knocked, I answered.
My name is Joshua Kroll, and I am a 2006 graduate of Alpena High School. I went on to Ferris State University for my bachelor’s degree in biology, then to Central Michigan University for a master’s degree, also in biology. From there I went on to work as a research associate at the Detroit Medical Center’s Harper University Hospital Department of Surgery. I have just begun my final year of medical school at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, and I plan to pursue a residency in family medicine.
In reflecting on how I can take this opportunity to deliver a worth while message to the honorees and their guests, I found inspiration within the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan’s name: Community. I had recognized that I have been a part of many different communities and that there have been many mentors whom I have learned lessons from. It is my sincere hope that in sharing my lessons learned from being active in many different communities that you might also draw from their wisdom.
First, I have to recognize my parents. They were my first teachers and they both taught me the value of hard work with both my mind and my hands.
Challenge your minds and challenge your bodies.
Next, I am reminded of Mr. Tom Stoppa. He might be familiar to students who are graduates of Alpena High School, as he teaches history there. Taking AP European History with him was a tremendous challenge, as his expectations were high, but also one of the most enjoyable courses that I have ever taken. He was able to connect with all students and guide their learning with his own engaging style. He certainly challenged me and encouraged me to aspire.
While at Ferris and in their Honor’s college, I was a focused and driven biology major with pre-med aspirations. My eyes and intent were focused on the singular goal of medical school: Organic Chemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Physics. It was there I met Dr. John Cullen, a language and literature professor. In some ways I had felt impeded in my path that I was required to take both literature and composition courses. But his courses taught me a greater appreciation for literature and certainly sharpened my own written word.
Allow yourself to shake off the blinders from a narrow focus on your goals, take a step back and look to the left and to the right.
While pursuing my master’s degree at Central Michigan University, I came to be mentored by Dr. Barbara Heller-Burstein. She was a solo family medicine practitioner that embodied all of the best stereotypes of what a doctor can be. She had patients that, though they had moved hours and many miles away, would still come to only her for their healthcare. She strove to do right by all of her patients, listening to their stories and doing all that she could to meet their needs. She once said “courage does not always have to roar, but sometimes courage is saying in the face of defeat, that I will come back again tomorrow and try again”
Have the courage to learn from mistakes, and to come back to try again.
While working at the Detroit Medical Center, I worked closely with a surgeon named Dr. Michael Wood. He was well into his seventies and still operating. Not only was he operating, but he was active in medical research trying to answer questions of obesity and weight loss. And this is how we met, as we conducted research together, blending his medical experience and my background in science for research.
Never stop learning; never stop asking how and why.
I would also like to recognize my friends that started as my classmates in medical school. There are a select few that we began this journey together, and will continue to be life long friends. We have shared in the challenge and struggle, but also in the successes and celebrations. Our common experience continues to grow our bond as friends. Without their support and sharing in this experience, I would not have been successful.
Share in your challenges, and share in your successes.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to the Hall Family, The Tri County Medical Society, and to the Basel Family. They are benefactors and scholarship donors here with us today. I have been fortunate enough to have been awarded scholarships from each of these donors. And to each one, I have written letters of my own gratitude. As a result of one of these, the financial burden of medical school has been somewhat relieved, hopefully allowing me to return home sooner to serve this community.
Always say thank you.
And thank all of you for bearing with me throughout my sharing. Sharing in the stories and lessons that I have learned. These people are members of different communities and come from different walks of life. They all have different callings and have taken different paths. But they have all crossed my path and imparted a piece of their experience and a bit of their wisdom to me. It is my goal to share this. To make their influence on me, like the pebble on calm waters: One drop with ripples dispersing. The ripples and the wisdom will hopefully touch each of you as you go forward into other communities.
My congratulations are with each of the scholarship recipients here, and the loved ones that support them.
My gratitude is with the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and to all of the donors that generously give of themselves, providing us recipients with opportunity.
When opportunity knocks, answer.