Written by Zoe Engels, Blog Contributor
Alyson Pollard, President and Co-Founder of SODA’s chapter at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, discovered her passion for organ donation advocacy and education in July of 2018. Having just graduated high school, Alyson began an internship at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, working specifically with living donor liver transplant information.
Does your school have a SODA chapter? Find out! Visit sodanational.org/chapter-opo.
The internship was a perfect fit.
Alyson had already gotten into UMass Lowell and would start her journey as a nursing student there in the fall. Although she didn’t know much about organ donation at the time, she quickly “fell in love [with transplantation],” as she puts it in a video for SODA National.
Through the internship, Alyson got to witness a few transplants live in the operating room, and she realized that she wanted to go into that field of medicine. Alyson continued to learn more about organ donation, becoming a research assistant at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in July of 2019. One Christmas break, while home with her family, Alyson began reading through an email from the hospital. As a member of the department, she was on the email list and could see upcoming transplantation information. Within just a few days, she could see that there were about seven transplants taking place. Alyson was amazed.
She hadn’t stopped wondering, “What can I do to help? How can I get involved?” So, that holiday break, Alyson went online and signed up to volunteer at her local Organ Procurement Organization, New England Donor Services. Not long after, a volunteer coordinator called her, and, upon hearing of Alyson’s desire to educate about and advocate for organ donation on UMass Lowell’s campus, the volunteer coordinator asked: “Why don’t you start a SODA chapter?”
That’s exactly what Alyson decided to do next.
If you’re also a passionate advocate for organ donation and are interested in joining a college or high school nonprofit, you can sign up to host a SODA event or start a chapter at sodanational.org/students.
UMass Lowell’s chapter joined the SODA family in January 2021. Despite the challenge of being online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SODA at UMass Lowell successfully hosted virtual meetings, made blankets for donor families, and participated in a Donate Life Walk. Since that first semester, they’ve held many organ donation education and advocacy events, including a relaxing night painting rocks to spread awareness for organ and tissue donation on campus. Chapter members also recently visited the Prudential Center when it was lit up in blue and green in honor of New England Donor Services.
Alyson’s dedication to organ donation education and advocacy is making a big impact in her community, and we can’t wait to see all that Alyson and SODA at UMass Lowell continue to accomplish!