Match Day another step forward for inspiring student

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | March 15, 2019

Image with caption: Zachary Wordekemper

Zachary Wordekemper

At the end of his first year in medical school at UNMC, Zachary Wordekemper, who is participating in Match Day today with his medical student classmates, was in a motorcycle accident.

View Match Day online

There will be 128 medical students matching at UNMC today. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. To view Match Day on a livestream link, click here. The link will be live at 10:30 a.m. Match Day also can be followed on the UNMC Facebook page or on Twitter at #UNMCMatch19.

He picked up the machine, got back on, and started riding back to campus. He made it more than a mile, he said, before he finally admitted he could go no farther -- something was wrong with the bike.

Wait a minute. Something was wrong with the bike?

At this point, we have to note that Wordekemper currently has a prosthetic right leg.

Well, he said, his foot hurt, too.

In the hospital, his physicians were blunt about his prognosis, which eventually led to him losing his right lower leg. As a medical student, he understands, he said, that losing a limb can be difficult for patients. But, after his initial surgeries, and consulting with his doctors, Wordekemper was good with making the call that the foot would go.

He could have kept it, he said, and put a plate in it, but he selected the option that would leave him more "athletic."

"I have four legs now," he said, including one prosthetic specifically for sports.

In fact, he is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee that he got "playing volleyball."

Playing volleyball!

"I like to try anything and do anything," he said. "I've loved the challenge it's brought.

"I love being unique."

But it's not the leg (or lack thereof) that makes him unique. He not only stayed in medical school, he barely even (ahem) broke stride.

His classmates were at his bedside for much of the 11 days he was in the hospital.

"When I would wake up, they would be there," he said.

And while on medication, he had to take more than a month off before taking his remaining final exam.

But then, he had the summer off before school started up again. Right . . .?

Well, he was a resident assistant for the SMDEP program (Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, now SHPEP). And then, there was research work in the Durham Research Center. "That place was not made for wheelchairs," he said.

And then, a muscular dystrophy camp he always works at . . .

OK, so the accident hadn't slowed him down.

Today, he's participating in Match Day and will do his residency here at UNMC in family medicine. He hopes to eventually move, with his fiance Madeline Blaha, a pharmacy student, "somewhere back out west." (He's from North Platte, Neb.)

His goal? "That patients know that I have their best interests," he said.

Oh, and also to run in the Paralympics.

He has a new "sprinting leg" he can't wait to test out.


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Sue Anson
March 18, 2019 at 4:13 AM

A true success story! You will be an inspiration to many!!!! I wish you the best of luck.

Gail Brondum
March 15, 2019 at 2:53 PM

Oh, wow! Way to keep going, Zach! Lucky organization that will get Matched with you! Best wishes!

Mary Bernhagen
March 15, 2019 at 2:12 PM

What an awe inspiring young man! He will be an awesome doctor! I wish him the very best!

Catherine Mello, UNMC Alumni Director
March 15, 2019 at 9:08 AM

Good luck in the Match today Zach! Can't wait to see where you're headed!

Joan Ewalt
March 15, 2019 at 8:53 AM

So cool!