Michael Kelly

6 years in Foster Care


Michael Kelly--a proud Minnesota native and a current 4th-year medical student at the University of Minnesota. Like others on this council, I'm no stranger to the foster-care system and to homelessness. During my childhood, I moved over 15 times. Eventually, I became homeless, making it difficult to focus on anything but survival. In desperation to escape the dysfunction of alcoholism, physical abuse, and emotional trauma that I saw as a child, I turned to my school communities for help. My school mentors connected me with safer environments by encouraging me to take up hospital volunteerism. Without hesitation, I did just that. And, while working with patients, I found I was not alone in facing adversity. Though I could do little to alleviate my own adversities, my exposure to the healthcare system gave me hope. Every day, I saw sick people getting better with the care from compassionate physicians. It was this initial exposure to healthcare where I first discovered my passions for both medicine and empowering the most vulnerable people in my community.

Eager to make meaningful change now, I chose not to wait for my medical degree to bridge this gap. I started to attack this problem early in my medical school career. By the second month of medical school, I had already motivated a group of peers to join me in this ambitious task. Over the next two years (and with the help of approximately 75 pre-professional students), this initiative developed into a fruitful and impactful non-profit organization. Its mission is to make the world a place where pre-professional students are inspired to become leaders and advocates for change within their communities, all while providing vulnerable youth with stable role-models in their sometimes-unstable lives. With grit and strong leadership, this non-profit grew exponentially, getting the attention of both local and national news outlets. Even the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recognized our work in bridging this gap between patients and future physicians. In 2023, the AAMC invited me to speak on poverty at their annual national conference. I used this platform as an opportunity to share my proposals on ways we can narrow both healthcare and educational opportunity gaps in our country.

The ability to empower and serve others has been a focus of my educational career; and it will be a pillar of my medical practice. My specialty of choice is family medicine, where I plan to use my leadership skills and passion for advocacy to craft a practice that truly makes lasting impacts in my patients' lives. I have ambitions to remain a champion for legislative reform on the topics of affordable, quality healthcare and education accessibility. Moreover, I aspire to also incorporate social determinants of health screening, assessment, and intervention into my practice, while encouraging the use of this type of care on a more systemic scale. Eventually, I dream of becoming a physician speaker and educator that teaches other healthcare professionals and students the tools needed to ensure compassionate, patient-centered care.

Although I once lived in a cold garage, I still lived more comfortably than other families I knew. These families helped me recognize the value of maximizing the resources I do have and the importance of using them to beneficially influence others around me. My hardships have provided incredible opportunities for growth, and they motivate me to become a doctor that cares for underserved populations. Knowing that today there are 38 million people in America who live in poverty (and so many others being just a paycheck away from poverty), I am devoted to being the change our country needs. And, with some
persistent encouragement, I plan to bring along other leaders with me in this vision.

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2022 Outstanding Young Leaders
Council Member - Current
Michael Kelly