A letter in a white envelope pointed the way to Kip Guja's future Friday, one that his mother was unable to imagine when her middle child was born 33 years ago.
Doctors had told his mother that the boy with cerebral palsy would have learning disabilities. She was urged to put him in special ed classes, but Pat Guja didn't want her son defined by his disability.
"He had so many things wrong with him. He had cerebral palsy, they didn't exactly say it was going to be a great outlook," she said. "'You can do it, Kip, it doesn't hurt to try' is what I always said to him."
As a kid, Kip Guja spent a lot of time in hospitals and endured several surgeries. But it was a doctor's words that truly changed his life when he was in first grade.
"He really encouraged me to see CP not as a limitation, but rather as a challenge that could be overcome," he said.
Guja turned that advice into a way of life, earning a masters degree from Johns Hopkins University. This spring, he'll be awarded both a Ph.D. and a medical degree from Stony Brook University's School of Medicine.
"I remember seeing his application and saying 'How could someone with cerebral palsy be a dual degree student?'" said Michael Frohman, Stony Brook University's pharmacological sciences medical scientist training program Director. "But we gave him a chance and he beat all our expectations."
When he opened up that white envelope with his fellow medical students Friday, the Babylon resident learned he was accepted to a residency at Stanford University. His mother is ready to jump for joy and show the world what her son has accomplished.
Now, Guja's goal is to work as a radiologist and help other CP patients.
"It's important to get the message out, to be positive and work hard," he said. "Whatever limitation you have are not hard and fast."