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ND alum overcomes blindness, strives for greatness

Kerins, Steve | Monday, April 11, 2005

Tim Cordes graduated from Notre Dame in 1998 at the top of his class, an enormous achievement under any circumstances. For Cordes, however, the accomplishment was even more noteworthy – he is blind.Now, after earning his M.D. from the University of Wisconsin and graduating in the top sixth of his class, he is working toward his Ph.D. studying how a bacterium that causes pneumonia and other infections regulates its toxins.”In general, I view my time at Notre Dame as a series of glimpses of how things could or should be,” Cordes said. “Possibility seemed to be lurking around every corner.”Cordes said his condition did not limit him during his years at Notre Dame.”Giant projects could be undertaken and delivered at a moment’s notice, guys like me could get dates to SYRs – you name it. This sense of hope and promise has kept me going on those long days since,” he said.Cordes said his Notre Dame experience prepared him for medical school and his future plans.”More practically, my biochemistry major was a great foundation for both medical school and my graduate work,” he added. “The theology and philosophy I received also have helped me deal with the more human issues of medicine and life.”Cordes also considered the sources of inspiration that helped him along the way.”One of the most inspiring things about my time at Notre Dame was the tremendous people I met,” he said. “I was surrounded by generous, talented individuals.”He told the story of a student he met during freshman orientation who volunteered to read for him.”He repeatedly refused to be paid for his work,” Cordes said. “One day, he fell asleep on me in mid-sentence. He was pushing himself so hard, but yet, still tried to stop and give of his time for others.”He continued, “Likewise, there were rectors and faculty who really took time to mentor and teach. With people like that around, it was easy to be inspired.”This inspiration carried over to Cordes’ medical school experience.”What inspires me about medical school is that when I’m treating a patient, I’m bringing all I know of the science and all I know as a human being and focusing it in that one instant on helping another,” he said.After completing medical school in December, Cordes joined the ranks of the small but elite group of blind doctors in the United States. Once he has finished his Ph.D. in biomolecular chemistry, he plans to pursue a residency in psychiatry or internal medicine as well as continuing to research.