Staying Balanced

Luke Wagner had considered going into physical therapy, dentistry, or chiropractic work, but none of those seemed quite right. Late one night, he found a video about podiatry while scrolling through YouTube videos. As he watched a foot and ankle surgeon on YouTube talk through the intricacies of the foot, he knew podiatry might be a good fit for him.

“The foot is a structural masterpiece—the entire body balances on it,” he explains.

Wagner, who runs for Dordt’s track and field team, knows the importance of staying balanced. “I run sprints, and I enjoy ripping a good race and feeling the wind rush past me. But honestly, what I love most about running for Dordt is the team. It’s more about the people and the community for me than anything else.”

Keeping a firm grip on both schoolwork and athletics can be a challenge, especially since the team’s track meets are held on Saturdays and are often hours away. He spends plenty of time on the bus doing homework. “My teammates also give me grief for sneaking off to the nearest library at our track meets. And I love it!”

The grind has been worth it: after Wagner was accepted to podiatry school at Des Moines University, the dean mentioned how much they value athletes. “He said they really like athletes because they are experts in time management,” he says. “So that was good to hear; all those hours running around were worth it.”

Wagner describes himself as not being the most academically gifted, but someone who enjoys working hard. When it came time to apply for medical school, he knew he had to put his best foot forward, so he took his resumé and personal statement to the Career Development Center.

“Missy Mulder had me rewrite my personal statement three or four times, which was pretty humbling,” he says. “I wanted to practice my interview skills, so Amy Westra gave me a document with highlighted potential questions to focus on. Sure enough, when it came time for my medical school interview, several of the questions she had highlighted were ones they asked me.”

He called Career Development “one of the most underrated parts of Dordt’s academic experience.”

“I try to promote Career Development whenever I can, because they were a huge help with my medical school applications,” he says.

Wagner also appreciates his professors, who have encouraged him in his aspirations to go to podiatry school. “They push me to do my best, and their academic curiosity inspires me,” he says. “I have friends who go to state universities and plan to go to med school. They do well academically but have mentioned that the hardest thing has been connecting with their professors because their classes are so big.”

Wagner’s professors at Dordt know him by name. “They make it a priority to check in with me and my classmates about summer internships, post-graduation plans, and other things.”

"[My professors] push me to do my best, and their academic curiosity inspires me."

He’s even had opportunities to serve as a teacher’s assistant (TA) in the cadaver and biomechanics lab.

“I walk the anatomy students through how to respectfully work in the cadaver lab. I also help them with dissecting technique and tutoring for identification quizzes on the body,” he says.

Before coming to Dordt, he would never have guessed that he would become so accustomed to working in the cadaver lab. And working courteously and carefully with cadavers is a challenging task to describe.

“It’s a strange dynamic, but once you grow more used to the idea, it becomes easier to work on a cadaver,” he says. “You learn to disassociate from them as a person and treat them like bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels, while still respecting them and recognizing that they are a human body.”

Having access to a cadaver lab is “a great hands-on experience that not very many undergraduate students get access to, which stands out on a medical school application,” he says. He also appreciates being able to participate in Dordt’s microscope histology class where students study professionally-made microscope slides and then can prepare and cut their own sections—again, not something that most undergrads are able to do.

“Dordt doesn’t have microbiology or biochemistry majors, but we do have some opportunities that students wouldn’t get at other larger universities,” he says.

Looking back at his Dordt experience, Wagner is grateful for the communities of support he’s found on campus.

“It’s all about community for me here, whether that’s students in my science classes, in Kuyper Honors Program, my track team community, my friends from small groups, or mentors in my local church,” he says. “In college, you go through a lot of ups and downs. Especially since I aspire to go to medical school, I can get overwhelmed, stressed out, or wonder if I’m cut out for podiatry school. But there are people around me who encourage me that, yes, I’m cut out for this. It might be tough, but I can get there.”