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Ballard Scholar Remembers Mentor and Friend


Robert H. Ballard and Tony Trinh
Robert H. Ballard and Tony Trinh

Earlier this month medical student Tony Trinh shared his memories of Robert H. Ballard at the University of Utah's annual scholarship lunch. Tony is the recipient of the Robert H. Ballard and Dorothy Cannon Ballard Endowed Scholarship. Below is the transcript of his heartfelt speech:

"Medical school has been a dream for me since I first stepped into my human anatomy and physiology course in high school. I knew it would be hard work but the importance of an education was instilled in me early on in my life. I still remember my mother working two shifts daily to put my father through college and make ends meet. Because of this experience, I have always viewed education as a privilege. When I first started at the U of U as an undergrad, I could not believe how expensive tuition was. 

Once I found out about how much it actually cost to attend medical school, it was like being hit with a brick. How was I going to pay for this?  While working part time in undergrad I had never made more than ten thousand dollars per year and the idea of having hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt was mind-boggling.

The most humbling day of my life was when I found out that I was selected as a Ballard Scholar. In fact, I was in shock. I felt joyful, overwhelmed, lucky and grateful all at the same time. Just think back to how you felt while watching the ending (all three!) of the last Utah-BYU football game. To this day I still cannot believe that I was chosen for such an unbelievable honor.  However, becoming a Ballard Scholar was one of the most motivational and inspirational experiences in my life.

I remember sitting in this exact room four years ago at my first scholarship luncheon. After coming to this luncheon, talking to Dr. Ballard and hearing students speak about their experiences, I was motivated to do as well as I could. I wanted to do well so that I could convince myself that I deserved this scholarship. To this day, I continue to be motivated by it.

The generosity of Dr. Ballard was in itself, inspirational, but who was Dr. Robert H. Ballard? Was I to remember him as a generous man who has a rehab center and an ICU named after him? Was I to remember him as someone who had provided an unprecedented amount of support to our medical school? Definitely yes, but in my mind, I knew Dr. Ballard best as the history buff. The first time I met Dr. Ballard, I was getting quizzed on American history right from the get go. I was afraid he would retract my scholarship right there because I could not answer a single question he posed.  Afterwards I wised up, and whenever I would visit him at his house, I would always try and read up on a history topic. That way, I could steer our conversations towards an event I knew about and hope that he would only ask me questions about that topic. It never worked.

The best memory of visiting Dr. Ballard was seeing pictures of the Ballard Scholars on his wall. He told me that he was so proud of all of us and was happy that he was able to support our education. He was always asking about school and what else I was doing for fun besides school. At first, I told him nothing and that I was studying hard to do well on exams. He promptly corrected me right there. “Sometimes it matters more what you do outside the classroom” he said. I took his advice to heart, began volunteering at the 4th street homeless clinic and eventually worked as a student-manager there. 

Even now as I apply for residency I reflect upon my experience as a Ballard Scholar. The great thing about the scholarship was that I knew I could select a specialty free of financial influence.  I have decided on a career as a radiologist as the study of anatomy has not only influenced my decision to become a doctor but has fascinated me until now.  Often I get asked about the possibility of the declining compensation within the field and whether it has played into my decision at all. I can answer honestly that it has not.

The experience of being Ballard Scholar is one that is lifelong and will always continue to motivate me.  I am forever grateful for the support that Dr. Ballard has provided. I do not think that I could ever thank him enough. The only thing I can do is to aspire to be like him. Self-less. Inspirational. An excellent mentor and friend. He has done more for me than he will ever know. Thank you."