*Editor's Note: Nicholas Colleran delivered this moving address at the SHP Scholarship Luncheon on Friday, March 21, 2014. He was kind enough to allow us to share his story with everyone and we thank him for being so open and inspirational.

Nicholas Colleran Scholarship Luncheon SpeechNicholas Colleran delivers Scholarship Luncheon speechI want to start by thanking everyone for all your contributions and allowing me to be here. It is my pleasure to speak to all of you this afternoon. My name is Nicholas Colleran and I am from Weymouth, Massachusetts which is about 15 minutes south of Boston. I am a student in The Master of Science in Health Administration program at UAB. I want to personally thank the Ryland Family for the scholarship they provided for me and for all those who have made contributions to our program. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we are all extremely grateful.

I want to tell you about what the scholarship I received, did for me. To do that I think I should give you a short background on whom I am. My path to graduate school wasn’t like most others. I came from a household in which neither parent had a college degree but constantly preached education. Despite their countless attempts to create a successful young man I ended up dropping out of high school. I started roofing to start a career but after 6 months I knew this was not what I wanted out of my life. After a dermatology appointment, I was hired by the physician to move boxes at the office for a week so the women in the office didn’t have to do any heavy lifting. Six years later I was still there and the women in the office were still making sure I did all the heavy lifting.

Colleran with DonorsColleran with Scholarship DonorsWhile working in that dermatology office, it was as though I had 12 mother figures and 2 dads in addition to the ones at home. Almost every day for the first year or so I heard how I needed to get a high school degree from one of my coworkers and then again when I got home from my mom. Tired of being told what to do I went to night school and graduated. Finally the nagging was over I thought….but once again in my young life I was wrong and within a week I was hearing how now I needed to get a college degree… once again I gave in. I gave up to the constant badgering and enrolled in school and this is where my life changed.

I began to not only love classes but began to love working as well. I was invested in work more than ever and gained more and more responsibility at the practice. For the first time in my life I wanted to learn everything I could and more. Needless to say no one had to tell me to go to school ever again. I fell in love with business but still wanted to improve people’s health as I had seen everyone at work do for the last few years. While working during the day and going to school at night I was on my path to successfully getting my undergraduate degree and I decided then that I would go on to graduate school. This was something I couldn’t have even dreamed about just a few short years ago. I didn’t know if I wanted to focus on healthcare or business and that’s when I stumbled upon healthcare management. I had no clue how ambiguous healthcare management was at the time and I didn’t know that the next ten years would be some of the most difficult healthcare managers will ever face, but either way I know this path was right for me.

Colleran with Dean JonesColleran with Dean JonesI started to look for Healthcare Administration programs and found many that looked like viable options but I continued to come back to one in particular, UAB. It had everything I wanted: the dual MSHA/MBA degree, the administrative residency, and a top rank but there was something else, something I may never be able to put my finger on that drew me to it and I knew I had to go there. I applied to multiple places and was ready for interviews. UAB was my first. A week later I went on my second and the night I got of the plane from my second interview I had a message saying I was accepted to UAB and the next day I called and cancelled all my other interviews. I was moving to Alabama….something else I never thought I would do.

This is where the scholarship plays in to my life. The reason I could make that decision so effortlessly was due to your generosity. This scholarship allowed me to pick the program I knew I wanted to be a part of from the very beginning without having to let money play a roll. So many times money doesn’t allow us to do what we want in life but I believe education shouldn’t be one of them. For many of us these scholarships created the option to go where we wanted and many of us wouldn’t be here without them.

Colleran delivers closing statementsColleran delivers closing statementsI have been so lucky to be part of the MSHA program at UAB. It has been roughly 8 months since the program started and we have learned an enormous amount. My time management skills have increased substantially as every day seems to hold a full workload of some sort and then a few surprises on top of that. I still have no clue what the future of America’s healthcare will look like but now I know when I am done here I’ll be ready for it. I received more exposure than I could ever have expected from touring several healthcare facilities to learning directly from executives about how they run their hospitals. My class is learning how to work in teams to successfully complete projects, not an easy task with a group of confidant extroverts all having their own “right” opinion. We have had some parts of the Affordable Care Act drilled into our brains so much that I have had nightmares of it. One of the most amazing parts of this program is that the class of roughly 30 has become wonderful friends and we spend ample amounts of time together. We work together daily to study, complete projects and sometimes just to hang out and have a good time. This experience has been one of the best of my life and it is clear that I was lucky for whatever drew me to UAB.

I can honestly say I am not sure where I will end up in the future whether it be a hospital, an insurance company, or a physician’s office but what I do know is that I will be prepared for any avenue that I choose. Leading an organization successfully into the future is my greatest goal. I know there will be rough patches and a ton of uncertainty but I know I won’t quit.

Everyone in this program, like me has their own story. We are all here to learn how to be successful in delivering safe, effective and sustainable healthcare to those who need it. These scholarships allowed us to come to this top ranked program that has been preparing us for the future. We will do everything in our power to show you that the generous scholarships you gave us were a good investment in the future of healthcare.