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Amy Sullivan Nordmann: Two-Time Academic All-American of the Year Now Helping Save Lives

Amy Sullivan Nordmann: Two-Time Academic All-American of the Year Now Helping Save Lives

In her three years with the Washington University volleyball team, Amy Sullivan Nordmann played on three national championship teams, earned back-to-back first team All-America honors in 1992 and 1993, and was named the UAA Most Valuable Player in 1992.

Perhaps the accomplishment that stands out the most was being named GTE Academic All-America of the Year twice. "Academics was the main focus for everyone on our team," she commented. "Many of my teammates, myself included, had either played Division I volleyball elsewhere, or were heavily recruited by DI schools and chose to play DIII at Wash U. The team and coaches kept the importance of the sport in perspective. Yes, we were on the team and strived to win national championships, but school came first for everyone. Volleyball was a passion for us, and an outlet in a challenging academic environment.  This culture allowed me to focus on my studies and maintain a healthy balance for success on both fronts."

Sullivan Nordmann started playing basketball at age 11 and anticipated she would go on to play basketball in college. "I tried out for the high school volleyball team as a freshman at Cor Jesu Academy, since volleyball was a fall sport and basketball started later in the year. I made the team that year more for my height and potential than for my skill level," she laughed. "I started playing club volleyball year round, and did so in both sports all the way through high school. As I developed more as a volleyball player, my love for the sport grew. There was more interest from college volleyball coaches, and the rest is history."

Although she grew up in St. Louis, Sullivan Nordmann began her college career in California at Occidental College before transferring to Washington University after one year. "I attended volleyball camps at Wash U and idolized the players and coaches there," she said. "After experiencing life in Los Angeles and getting that 'need for freedom' out of my system, I realized that I had left behind a first class team and university. After a few months away, I knew Wash U was really the place that I belonged all along. It was an easy decision to transfer."

The Bears captured their second NCAA Division III title in three years in Sullivan Nordmann's sophomore season, her first with the team. She made a huge impact the following year, being named the UAA MVP as the Bears finished 7-0 in round robin play and 5-0 in the championship round. "Of course it was an honor to be named UAA MVP, but honestly, any one of my teammates could have been named MVP on any given day," she recalled. "I think I may have just had a hot serving or hitting streak during that particular tournament. Our team was full of talent. We were trained to constantly give 110% and as a result we were hard to beat."

Washington University finished 40-0 in that season, winning the national championship with a three-set win over University of California, San Diego. After another 12-0 combined mark in UAA play in 1993, the Bears captured their third consecutive NCAA title in an expanded field. In the championship match against Juniata College, Sullivan Nordmann recorded 12 kills and an astounding eight service aces in the three-set victory. 

"Winning three NCAA championships is something I am extremely proud of. Coach (Teri) Clemens and Joe Worlund were masters of building team unity and pride. We worked our tails off at practice every day, but Coach and Joe knew how to make hard work fun," she said. "Practice was always something new and exciting. They fostered a friendly competitiveness among their players. Obviously, with each title I was more experienced and was able to contribute as more of a leader as I got older. But, overall I would say there were more similarities than differences with the three titles. We were the Wash U Bears--fierce and unified as a team on the court and like family off the court."

"She was an absolute joy not just to coach, but to be around," Clemens stated. "She was a wonderful combination of competitive beyond our norm and analytical beyond a typical middle blocker."

Nearly 15 years after her playing career ended, Sullivan Nordmann was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Hall of Fame® in 2007. "Being inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame was surreal," she remembered. "To be inducted alongside astronaut Steve Smith, Olympian Julie Foudy, and baseball legend Joe Girardi was such a great honor. I was proud to be able to represent Division III athletics, the sport of volleyball, and Washington University. Coach Clemens always used to say, 'It's not the division of the program, it's the class of the program.' Being inducted validated that statement in a big way."

Sullivan Nordmann made the most of her time at Washington University, even beyond academics and volleyball. She served on ThurtenE Honorary, helping to plan the oldest student-run carnival in the nation, which brings the campus and Greater St. Louis communities together for three days. "I was fortunate to serve on ThurtenE. Helping to plan the carnival and helping young children in the community is a fond memory," she recalled. The biology major also volunteered with Special Olympics and in a St. Louis hospital emergency room, and worked at youth sports camps. 

She also continued her learning at the university by attending medical school there. "Attending medical school at Washington University provided an unparalleled medical education, as I was able to work with experts and leaders in medicine across all disciplines," she said. "My medical school classmates are some of the smartest, most well-rounded, and genuinely good people I have ever met. I grew tremendously as a student and as a person from my time there."

Sullivan Nordmann is now a radiologist, but her route to radiology was like a winding road. "During my medical school training, I absolutely loved anatomy. As I progressed into my clinical rotations, I was naturally drawn to the surgical fields," she remembered. "My initial interest was in ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat), so I actually spent a year in the MA/MD program (which allows medical students to participate in cutting-edge biomedical or clinical research and earn a Master of Arts degree in preparation for a career in academic medicine) to explore that field in more detail. When I re-entered my clinical rotations as a fourth-year student, I spent a month in radiology and knew that I had found my calling. The Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology is one of the top radiology departments in the world, and I was fortunate enough to train there under the best radiologists in each subspecialty as a resident and as a fellow in breast imaging."

One of the aspects of breast imaging that most appealed to her was the interaction with both physicians and direct patient contact. "Radiologists are considered 'doctors' doctors,' as we are constantly making diagnoses and consulting with referring physicians to aid in patient management," she said. "I perform ultrasounds and biopsies on patients every day. With these patient interactions, I am able to 'doctor' and reassure anxious patients as well as provide advice to alleviate their symptoms. I am proud to be a breast imager, and it is rewarding knowing that my job allows me to catch early stage breast cancer and have a direct hand in saving lives."

"She was poised, determined and brilliant," Clemens remarked. "I miss her constantly, but I know that she is still poised, determined, and brilliant as a mom and as a doctor. While I am not at all surprised at her success, I am quite proud. Getting to just say a few words about Amy makes me smile at the memories like they were yesterday!"