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USU Student/Guam World Champ Jumps to New Heights, on Track to Become a Surgeon

Pollara Cobb (right) with a phone in her hand with another person on her right.

By Sarah Marshall


Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb held multinational Guam records in track and field. Today, she is training on a new track to become a doctor – and still setting records as the first military officer and surgeon in her family. She attributes much of her success to her family and her native Guam, which she represented in her beloved sport for many years on various regional and world stages. 

Cobb is in her fourth year of medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and, after she graduates this spring, she’ll go on to complete a residency in otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat/Head & Neck Surgery).  And while she is known for being a sprinter – she broke a decade-old Guam National Record in the 100-meter dash in 2011 – the long and arduous course of medical school has been more like a marathon: endurance over speed, she says. However, in some ways, she compares track and field to her journey through medical school. Both require resilience, not to mention tactical distribution of energy. 

Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb, a fourth-year medical student at USU, will soon graduate and go on to complete a residency in ENT/Head & Neck Surgery. She attributes much of her success to her family, and her nature Guam. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb, a fourth-year medical student
at USU, will soon graduate and go on to complete a residency
in ENT/Head & Neck Surgery. She attributes much of her
success to her family, and her native Guam. (Photo credit:
Pollara Cobb)
“The joy I feel learning about medicine and using my knowledge and skills to help others is similar to the joy I felt sprinting 100 meters down the track,” she adds. “The training is difficult and exhausting, but I show up nonetheless because I absolutely love what I do.”

When it comes to her life goals, Cobb is making her way to the finish line, but for her, she says, it’s about liberating herself from a mental trap that there is a time to beat, a set distance to cover. It’s also about embracing the journey, devoting herself to learning and challenging herself, she says.

Before starting her most recent journey of becoming a doctor, she was a well-known track star in her native Guam at the age of 14 – representing the island as the youngest member of its national team at the time. One of her most fond memories of representing Guam though, she says, was in 2011 at the World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Prior to that event, many people had told her that her track career was over. She had torn her meniscus and ACL playing rugby in 2008. After an extensive recovery, she returned and set the 100-meter national record for Guam, while up against the world’s best athletes. 

“That day, I learned a very important life lesson: never limit yourself to the beliefs of others,” Cobb says. Her coach, Carl Cruz, at that time also taught her to “trust the process.” 

“I am a strong believer that diligence and resilience will prevail against any setback. I always try to keep these lessons in mind,” she adds.

Cobb went on to compete in the 2011 South Pacific Games in Noumea, New Caledonia (akin to the Pacific Olympics). After high school, she attended the University of Guam, then transferred in 2012 to Emory University in Atlanta where she graduated with a degree in chemistry and a minor in math. In college, she continued to set records for Guam in the triple and long jumps. She went on to take three gap years, during which time she worked in a pathology lab, an urgent care center, and as a volunteer at a children’s hospital. Then, she started medical school at USU in 2018. Recently, she was matched to her choice of residency in ENT/Head & Neck Surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – a huge accomplishment not only for her own life goals, but for her family, she says.

“I am the first college grad, first military officer, and now first doctor and surgeon of my family,” Cobb says. “I spoke to my mom after match day, and she said I would have never believed that my daughter would be a doctor … it’s not in our cards. This really touched me, and I am so happy to make my family and my island proud of my accomplishments … My success is their success.”

Cobb also hopes to continue making both her family and island proud of her achievements. She also hopes to encourage others to pursue their dreams, despite any challenges they may face on the path.

Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb poses for a photo with her mom. (courtesy photo)
Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb poses for a photo with her mom. (Photo credit: Air Force 2nd Lt. Pollara Cobb)