Delaware's Ally Pollak Finds Passion for Medicine through EMT Work

Sept. 06, 2019, 4:15 p.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Andy Lohman, Delaware Athletics

Newark is the busiest grid in the state of Delaware for emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Each emergency call, anything from a nosebleed to cardiac arrest, takes about an hour to respond to, and on a six-hour shift on the ambulance, it's not unheard of to receive six calls back-to-back. 

While the work is rewarding, it can also be challenging and exhausting. For field hockey senior Ally Pollak, it's just a part of her day as a Delaware student-athlete.

"Yeah, it's a long day, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way," Pollak said.

It's harder to take on shifts during hockey season in the fall, but a typical spring day for Pollak could start with an EMT shift from 6 a.m. to noon, class from 1 p.m. to 3p.m., then practice from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The opportunity first came to Pollak through an email from a professor: the university was offering an accelerated EMT training course over the winter session of her sophomore year. Excited to find an opportunity to get involved outside of the classroom, Pollak took the course Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the winter, with a ride-along shift from 6 p.m. to midnight once a week.

She took and passed the national registry test and the Delaware state that June, and was fully cleared to work and start saving lives. Pollak chose to work in the city of Newark, and has felt a stronger connection to the surrounding community as a result.

"We get everything you can imagine. It really opened my eyes, because my freshman and half my sophomore year, I didn't see any of that," Pollak said.

The experience has also given her perspective.

"It makes me really feel appreciative of the things I have and take for granted," Pollak said. "Working on the ambulance, you see people on their worst days and it really opens your eyes. It makes me more thankful and grateful."

If balancing hockey, school and being an EMT wasn't enough, Pollak is on track to graduate early this December. The post-Delaware plan is to go to perfusion school. A perfusionist is a medical professional who operates the cardiopulmonary bypass machine during open-heart surgery.

She may not be helping to perform open-heart surgery in the back of an ambulance, but her experience as an EMT laid the groundwork to further pursuing a medical career.

"I found my passion for medicine doing EMT. I knew it was something I wanted to do, but I never knew why," Pollak said. "I knew I was helping that person, but I was really helping myself because it made me feel like I had self-worth and I could really help somebody."

That helping spirit translates outside of medical emergencies, too.

"I like being that go-to person," Pollak said. "Now on my team if anybody has anything wrong I get a knock on my door. It just makes me feel really good to help other people."

On the field, Pollak is a key starter for the Blue Hens, the spearhead of the attack and the stick stopper on penalty corners. As a freshman, she was a part of the squad that won the 2016 NCAA Championship. Unfortunately, she dislocated her knee during the title game. So, ironically, as she has been training to be an emergency medical professional, she herself was recovering from her own injury.

"I found myself being the victim dummy for a lot of the exercises, but honestly I learned so much from being that because I knew what felt right and what felt wrong," Pollak said. "It was definitely a unique way of going through the class."

Pollak continued to be a key contributor during her sophomore and junior seasons, but feels like this season is the first time she's felt completely healthy.

"This year I finally feel healthy and my knee is cooperating with me," Pollak said. "So I'm really excited, now that I feel more like myself, I'm excited to play more like myself."

The No. 16 Blue Hens are off to a 2-0 start to the 2019 season after taking down two teams that competed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, No. 22 Albany and Miami (Ohio). This weekend, they host American Friday night at 6 p.m. and No. 9 Penn State Sunday at noon, both at Fred P. Rullo Stadium.

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