Outstanding Graduate Jordan Wainwright Overcomes Health Challenges by Studying Underlying Issues

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – In fall 2017, Jordan Wainwright was a goalkeeper on a full-ride scholarship for Islanders Women’s Soccer at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi when her health dramatically declined as a result of a renal disease.

After a strong start that included a season-high 9 saves against The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros and a whopping 13 shots faced against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions in September, Wainwright played her last match on Oct. 22, 2017, against the Lamar University Cardinals. It was Seniors Day and although there were still two more matches in the season, for Wainwright, her athletic career was over.

Wainwright said that while she was diagnosed with renal disease in high school, it was never the drive behind her educational passions until her health rapidly declined during her senior year of collegiate soccer.

“During my senior season, I noticed increased fatigue levels, edema and bruising. I was a kinesiology major, so while taking the course Exercise Physiology, I began to come up with ideas on why my renal function may have declined in response to strenuous physical exertion,” she said.

Upon completion of her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology-Exercise Science in summer 2018, Wainwright enrolled in the Master of Science in Kinesiology program at the Island University. Wainwright, who completed her MS degree in May with a 4.0 GPA, has received the honor of being named an Outstanding Graduates for Spring 2020. She will participate in the Spring/Summer Virtual Commencement Ceremony on August 15. 

For her thesis, Wainwright chose to focus on her own health issues to better understand the physiology behind renal injury, which could ultimately benefit future Islanders soccer players.

“My thesis, ‘The Effects of Heat Stress on Hydration Status and Renal Biomarkers in NCAA D1 Female Soccer Players in South Texas,’ serves as not only a better understanding of my own health, but also assists in the potential physiological protection of our female soccer players on the Island,” she said.

From Wainwright’s time as an undergraduate student, mentor Dr. Daniel Newmire, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, said the Florida native stood out for her inquisitive manner and motivated personality. When they first met, Newmire was a newly arrived faculty member at the Island University, and Wainwright was a student in his Exercise Physiology and Measurement Evaluation classes. 

“From my standpoint, I am always looking for students who are interested – they really want to learn, look at things and understand why, how come, what for, and they ask lots of questions,” Newmire said. “Jordan was indeed one of those inquiring students who demanded more information on specific topics mixed with her desire to be involved in class discussions.”

As a graduate student, Wainwright worked closely with Newmire to shape her thesis, drawing inspiration from his guidance and expertise, all the while serving as a graduate assistant in the Exercise Physiology Lab. Wainwright said Newmire was a key reason she was able to shape her questions into ideas.

“As an undergraduate student, Dr. Newmire saw my potential as I always came prepared with probably too many questions. However, those questions ultimately led to what would eventually become my graduate degree thesis,” Wainwright said.

On one especially difficult day, Wainwright received devastating news about her health: her kidneys were failing, and she would have to have a kidney transplant in order to live.

“Jordan was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called C3 glomerulonephritis (C3GN). About half of affected individuals develop end-stage renal disease (ESRD) within 10 years after their diagnosis,” Newmire said. “I was taken back and wondered how she would be able to balance the rigor of a graduate program and the workload of a thesis. I prepared myself that she may have to respectfully bow out of our program to tend her health. Well, she had to remind me again who she is and what she will endure. Since then, I have had the honor of watching the growth of a future doctoral student and academic who is driven and does not allow barriers to slow her progress.” 

While the spring 2020 semester brought about a sudden shift to online instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wainwright was nevertheless able to successfully complete the requirements for her master’s degree. In July, she received her kidney transplant and has been focused on recovery. Eventually, she hopes to select a Ph.D. program to continue her quest in understanding both exercise and renal physiology.  

Among her accomplishments as an Islander, Wainwright was a 2016-2018 member of the Southland Commissioner’s Honor Roll, a 2016-2018 member of the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi Athletic Director Honor Roll, and was a member of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi President’s List and the National Honor Society for four years. For her thesis, Wainwright was awarded a grant in the Fiscal Year 20 Division of Research and Innovation Student Research Competition and also a Student Research Development Award from the Texas-American College of Sports Medicine. She also juggled several part-time jobs.

“Working three jobs while in renal failure has indefinitely taken a toll on my physical and mental health at times,” Wainwright said. “Regardless, I am determined to create publishable work that may serve as a reference in a rather non-existent field of study. In my head, there is no other choice than to overcome obstacles.”