TRAVERSE CITY — Nearly two years away from beginning his medical school studies in Traverse City, Chris Keyes is having a hard time being patient.
As the first recipient of the Daniel and Debra Edson Endowed Scholarship, Keyes is anxious to begin the second half of his enrollment in the Rural Community Health Program through Michigan State University. The Edsons are long-time Traverse City residents.
The Harbor Beach native will spend his first two years as a student at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in East Lansing, That will be followed by two years at the Traverse City clinical campus at Munson Medical Center.
Keyes is getting married in September 2021 at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. Keyes and fiancé Kalyn Wurst have even started to look at places to live, even though it’s far too early to sign a lease.
“We already starting looking at apartments,” Keyes said. “We’re really looking forward to being up there.”
According to the university, the Edson scholarship the is first fully-funded endowed scholarship in the history of the College of Medicine, according to MSU.
“I’m very thankful for it,” Keyes said.
Keyes said the scholarship will help him pursue his dream of not only becoming a doctor, but also practicing in a rural area. According to a release from MSU, northern Michigan is one of “nearly 7,000 geographic areas, populations and facilities ... said to have too few primary care providers.”
Dan Edson said Keyes has all of the “great qualities” of a rural physician.
“He’s smart, he’s a hard worker and he’s humble,” Edson said. “He also really wants to live and practice in northern Michigan.”
Funding a scholarship for continuing education suits the Edsons.
Debra Edson worked for more than four decades as a teacher, most in special education with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. A Mancelona native, Dan Edson is the co-founder and president of the American Proficiency Institute. He earned his master’s degree in microbiology and infectious diseases from Michigan State in 1979 and his undergraduate degree in medical technology from Central Michigan University in 1973.
Keyes said he would love to return to the area after completing his residency. Keyes said Wurst’s grandparents have a condominium in Frankfort and summer visits to the area left a lasting impression.
“Hopefully I’ll return someplace up there after that,” Keyes said of his future plans. “When it’s all said and done, I want to end up in Traverse City or the northwest region.”
Keyes graduated in the spring from the MSU College of Natural Science with a double major in chemistry and human biology.
He’s been attracted to rural areas since he grew up in the Thumb region on the shores of Lake Huron. The attraction was further cemented when he participated in the Leadership in Rural Medicine Pipeline Program during his second year at MSU.
“It helps you figure out, one, if medicine is what you want to do,” Keyes said. “And two, if rural medicine is for you.”
Shadowing doctors at a small clinic in Eaton Rapids added to the experience for Keyes.
He said working with mentor Dr. Andrea Wendling added additional confirmation. Wendling is a professor and the director of the Rural Health Curriculum at Michigan State who practices at the Boyne Area Medical Center.