Zachary Meade: Challenging the Impossible through Selfless Service

Everything in Zachary Meade’s life has been preparing him for the journey to becoming a physician-innovator—even if he didn’t realize it until a year ago. “Being here is surreal,” says Zachary. “It’s something I’ve worked so hard for, and now being a part of something that’s potentially the most revolutionary thing in a long time is inspiring.”

Zachary is one of 32 future physician-innovators at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Settling into a new routine of rigorous medical education at the first engineering-based college of medicine, he is clear about one thing: this is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. His expectations for himself are high and his sights are set on making a real impact on the lives of others.

“Being a part of something that’s potentially the most revolutionary thing in a long time is inspiring.”

With a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska, Zachary feels well prepared for innovative medical training with a quantitative mindset thanks to calculus and differential equations. He also sees his critical analysis skills as a huge asset.

“My electrical engineering background taught me about signal processing and how systems work together,” Zachary says. “This is really beneficial for physicians. They need a solid foundation of understanding technology to keep up with the pace of rapid advances.”

While his education has prepared him for success in Carle Illinois’s unique curriculum, another thing is clear: Zachary fully understands the promise of becoming a physician-innovator. Prior to training as an engineer, Zachary’s career as an EMT put him on the front lines delivering often critical medical intervention to patients. But, his passion for improving the human condition started before that.

Zachary Meade, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Zachary Meade (right) dons a bomb suit, weighing about 75lbs and designed to withstand explosions.

Serving as a bomb squad technician in the military opened Zachary’s eyes and his heart. He met wounded veterans who had lost limbs, eyesight and more through active duty service to their country. He also found a community of people who became more like family than friends. A community that he is driven to support.

“In the military, I was far away from my family and I grew to love and cherish the people I was spending time with,” says Zachary. “I wanted to serve this selfless community who had served others. They were so willing to help me and lay down their life for me; I wanted to do the same for them by creating opportunities to live higher quality lives.”

A life inspired by the selflessness of others

Learning medicine through the lens of engineering, he hopes, will help him do just that. Zachary is eager to identify ways to innovate and create high-impact solutions for real patients at Carle Illinois, and throughout his residency and his career. He is inspired to develop his expertise to fulfill his vision of using technology and innovation in concert with medicine to create even better prosthetics for wounded veterans. But his aspirations don’t stop there. He wants to help as many people as he can and make the most impact by affecting policy change, making innovative technology advances, and still seeing patients.

“Carle Illinois doesn’t just teach us how a medication works and tell us to memorize that,” says Zachary. “They teach us that this medication had a unique manufacturing process that, maybe as a physician, we should be aware of. Because if we want to develop new techniques, we need to think ‘this had to be produced in some way’ and ‘this has to treat the patient in some way’. In addition to clinic-focused education, we get to learn everything around it – business, engineering, entrepreneurship. It will help us in so many more ways than a traditional medical education.”

What’s even more obvious about Zachary than his competence and curiosity is his creativity and compassion. He is passionate about serving others, channeling his own personal challenges growing up into gratitude for all he’s accomplished. A first-generation high school student and recipient of the prestigious Navy Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP), Zachary credits his grandmother with showing him what hard work looks like, instilling the value of family, providing him with an environment in which he could thrive, and demonstrating compassion and relentless giving. And he is determined to use all that he’s been given to transform the field of medicine.

“Being a physician-innovator means that you do not accept ‘no’ or ‘impossible’ as answers.”

“Being a physician-innovator means that you do not accept ‘no’ or ‘impossible’ as answers,” says Zachary. “You take someone telling you that something is impossible as a challenge to find the answer…to create a new pathway. If there’s not an answer yet, I want to find one.”

Hear from more future physician-innovators like Zachary.