I AM UAA: Gregg Zaporzan

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

B.S. Natural Science '02
MedEx Physician Assistant Program '06
Hometown: Schreiber, Ontario, Canada
Fun Fact: Played with the same forward line all four years of his UAA hockey career

I AM UAA Gregg Zaporzan

A little over a decade ago, Gregg Zaporzan was taking hits and incurring the occasional minor concussion or bloody lip that college hockey players expect to incur. Now, he's rink-side suturing up his fellow Seawolves when the need calls for it. As a physician assistant for the Anchorage Fracture and Orthopedic Clinic (AFOC), UAA's team clinic for over 30 years, Gregg says he wouldn't trade his job for anything and is excited his alma mater is still part of the action.

Coming to UAA in 1998 on an athletic scholarship at the ripe old hockey age of 21, Gregg already had 17 years of the game under his belt. Four years old is the average age a Canadian kid will skate up, and at age 15 Gregg had moved from his small town of Schreiber, Ontario, (pop. 2,000) to the relatively larger neighboring town of Thunder Bay (pop. 100,000) to pursue his hockey development. While he finished high school, the 5'7" right-winger cycled through the Bantam and Midget levels before going on to Junior hockey for four years.

"Anchorage is very similar to Thunder Bay," says Gregg, explaining why he chose to attend UAA after Juniors. "The mountainous area, the snow, the climate. Basic things were very similar so I felt really comfortable coming up here. A bunch of my past hockey teammates from Thunder Bay were here as well."

Knowing he had a better shot at a college hockey career than a draft to the NHL, he signed his letter of intent early in the recruitment process and arrived in Alaska ready to skate, and study, hard.

"College went by in a blur," he says. "Mixing academics with a busy hockey schedule was challenging, but all the positive things I have in my adult life right now stem from UAA." Wife Brook (a UAA alumna), his close friends in the hockey community and even his job at AFOC are all on that list.

After earning his B.S. in Natural Sciences in 2002 (finishing his degree in four years as a student athlete is among his career highlights), Gregg was on the pre-med track with ideas ranging from pharmacy to dentistry that competed with the itch to play more hockey. To bide his time after graduation while figuring out his next step, he took a physical therapy technician job with AFOC. Though the Alaska Aces called a few months in, Gregg did get a chance to see what a physician assistant's role was at the clinic and it seemed like a natural fit. When the Aces gig didn't last, he decided it was time to hang up his skates and pursue medical school.

"The MedEx PA program is very strict on required work experience prior to admission," says Gregg. "So I returned to AFOC to work for two more years and then applied for MedEx."

Just after getting married in early 2004, Gregg packed up to spend his first year of PA school in Seattle. Although MedEx partners with UAA through the University of Washington and these days Alaskans can spend the bulk of their first year in Alaska, too, back then Gregg could only opt to spend his second year, a year of clinical rotations, back in Anchorage-which is exactly what he did. Then, shortly after getting nationally certified, he rejoined AFOC in October 2006.

In addition to patching up torn or broken Seawolf hockey players, Gregg stays connected with UAA through the Alumni Association, skating in the alumni hockey game each year, coaching youth hockey with old UAA hockey pals and hosting one or two MedEx students every year in his office for their clinicals. And when he's not patching up torn or broken Seawolf hockey players, he enjoys family time with his wife and two kids. His son, Camden, is just over two years old and can already be found out on the ice. Daughter Jordyn will soon follow. And when it's not hockey season, they find time for snowmachining, fishing and camping as well.

With a natural interest in sports medicine and sports related injuries, Gregg's day-to-day job as a PA ranges from evaluating and diagnosing patients, conducting x-rays and injections, assisting in knee and hip surgeries and aiding in trauma care.

"I have patients who come in and still recognize me from when I played for UAA," he says. "It was 10 years ago that I played, but it still feels like yesterday. My biggest advice to other student athletes at UAA is to enjoy it while it lasts. Don't take it for granted and don't forget to have fun."

Creative Commons License "I AM UAA: Gregg Zaporzan" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.