Sports injury helped shape Riddle Prize winner’s future

Cody Lee

Cody Lee heads to medical school in the fall. His own treatment for a sports injury made him interested in orthopedics as a career. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


During his sophomore year, Cody Lee spent 20 weeks on crutches with a stress fracture in his femur. The injury kept him on the sidelines of the UIC cross country and track team for a year.

“I felt like a new person,” Lee said. “I just wanted to get back to running and being who I was.”

The injury had a major impact on his career choice. A student in the GPPA medicine program and Honors College, Lee knew he wanted to go to medical school, but spending so much time with his orthopedic surgeon showed him what specialty to pursue.

“It’s weird to say, but it was actually a hidden blessing,” he said. “I realized that what I want to do for a living is to bring people back to their passion.”

Lee is this year’s winner of the Donald and Leah Riddle Prize for Outstanding Graduating Senior. The prize, named for a former chancellor and his wife, is among UIC’s top undergraduate honors.

Since completing his studies in December, Lee has interned with an orthopedic surgeon in Hinsdale, photographing and videotaping knee and shoulder surgeries. “I get to be involved in something medically related but take a different, creative approach to it,” he said.

He will attend medical school next fall and dreams of being a physician for a professional sports team.

“My No. 1 goal is to be a physician who is compassionate and understands his patients on more than a medical level but as a human,” he said. “Broken bones or a torn ACL are really debilitating and take you away from who you are.”

Lee finished his dual-degree program in biochemistry and Spanish in three-and-a-half years. “Biochemistry was a great way for me to prepare for classes in medical school but Spanish was my interesting major,” he said. “It was a way for me to explore a different academic world.”

He managed his rigorous schoolwork while competing on the cross country and track team. He vividly recalls his best race at the beginning of sophomore year.

“It felt like an out-of-body experience,” he said. “I was running and my mind was totally free. I didn’t feel the pain of running a 5-mile race. I felt like I was running like a champion.”

Time management and a passion for running kept him going, even though his days were tightly scheduled.

“The magic recipe is that everything you have to do is something you actually want to do,” he said. “I didn’t have an athletic scholarship and I wasn’t one of the best ones on the team. I was purely there because I wanted to be there. The friendships I built with other student athletes really made my college experience special.”

Lee said he will always cherish his time as a UIC student and Flames athlete.

“UIC is going to be a big player in my future career and something I reflect on a lot,” he said. “It’s an institution that I foresee myself going back to and hopefully serving in the future.”


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