Before ‘landing’ at Carbon Health, Max Pollock, NP-C, was a medical evacuation pilot, flying on-demand trips with teams of surgeons carrying organs for transplantation. He first entered our Oakland clinic as a patient and was so impressed with the overall experience, he knew right away it was a company he wanted to work for.
CARBON HEALTH: Before pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner you were a medical evacuation pilot. That sounds like an incredible job. Were you always interested in aviation?
MAX POLLOCK: I have been a pilot since I was in high school. I actually flew an airplane solo before I was able to drive solo (you could say some of our laws are a bit backward)! I had an uncle who had an airplane that he kept out at Hayward Airport and I was lucky enough to get to fly with him when I was young. I owe him a lot for helping me to cultivate this passion.
CH: When did you realize you could turn your passion into a career?
MP: After I graduated from college I knew I wanted to fly professionally. I was, and still am, drawn to aviation for a number of reasons. Flying is such a unique experience and is one that blends a totally unique set of skills. To fly proficiently, one must be able to multitask and execute without fail. There is a satisfaction that comes from safely completing a flight that is hard to match anywhere else. From preflight planning, weather navigation, and managing aircraft systems and radio communications, to anticipating the next emergency to head it off at the pass, there is a lot to focus on. Getting comfortable with the task load, while also enjoying the view, can actually be oddly serene and meditative. I’d imagine it’s not too different from successfully performing a surgery.
CH: What was one of the coolest things about being a medevac pilot?
MP: There is nothing like a 4 a.m. departure with a heart on dry ice and a surgical team at the ready, off to the next location for a life-saving surgery! Once I began nursing school in 2017, I committed myself to medicine full-time. So, while I no longer fly in these capacities, I do fly regularly for fun. Usually, I just rent a little plane and take friends up to explore the Bay. We’re so spoiled by this landscape.
CH: What made you decide to pivot from the sky to a job firmly on land?
MP: I worked my way up the ranks, eventually becoming a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor (licenses that I keep current and still enjoy). However, I ultimately found that the experience of flying did not provide me with the human-to-human interaction and social impact I desired in my career. I saw the direction that healthcare was going in this country, and wanted to do my part to make an impact on my community and the system as a whole. And, medicine calls upon many of the same skills as aviation. Both require very complex decision-making, problem-solving, and staying calm under pressure, with consequences if executed incorrectly.
CH: You first came to Carbon Health as a patient. What makes Carbon Health different from other healthcare companies?
MP: In a nutshell, I have always felt so cared for as a patient at Carbon Health and I truly appreciate the integration of technology that the company employs. For example, the apps make the experience (both as patient and provider) so seamless. Accessing medical records, communicating with patients, and staying up-to-date on appointments and medical protocols is simple with the Carbon Health app. I really feel as though we are revolutionizing the primary care landscape, and I am so excited to be a part of the change.
CH: What do you find most satisfying about your role, especially during COVID-19.
MP: Needless to say, we’ve only just begun to see some of the ways in which this pandemic will change the world. As a primary care NP, I’ve witnessed the exacerbation of numerous pre-existing inequities that plagued our healthcare system to begin with. We’ve seen this pandemic hit certain groups harder than others, namely, people of color, women, and those who are underinsured or uninsured. It is my hope that once we emerge from this pandemic, and as we prepare for the next, we will be able to make critical changes to address these issues. I truly hope COVID-19 may serve as a catalyst for much overdue systemic change. My role this past year has been even more gratifying due to the pandemic, as I continue to serve my patients to the best of my ability during this trying time.
CH: How has this crisis changed the way you look at healthcare?
MP: One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen across the industry during COVID-19 is the adoption of telemedicine. While telemedicine has been around for some time, this crisis necessitated the widespread adoption of this technology. I have been able to help my patients hit their preventive health benchmarks from the comfort of their homes. It is my hope that this technology continues to be utilized and further developed once this pandemic has passed, as it will play a major role in the continuity of care going forward. Lastly, I believe healthcare is a human right. It is my hope that as a nation, we adopt policies that allow for expanded, affordable coverage for all.
CH: Do you have any inspiring stories about working with COVID-19 patients?
MP: One thing I find very rewarding is providing COVID-positive patients with reassurance and protocols. When diagnosed, many patients are confused, scared, and lacking necessary information. Being an active listener, sharing treatment protocols, and giving reassurance usually provides great relief to many of these patients. As a provider, this has been very gratifying. I’ve also been astounded by the dedication of my peers. From MDs to mid-level providers to nurses, my coworkers have put their dedication to patient health above their own. I am more proud than ever to be in healthcare.