Emergency medicine is a team sport.  There would be no way to deliver quality emergency care to the millions of Americans who present to our emergency departments without talented and motivated individuals in every role. Cyndy Flores is one of those exquisitely dedicated “non-physician” leaders bringing the team at CEP America’s to the next level.

Cyndy has been a physician assistant for over 20 years. Her path to emergency medicine is familiar to many. A ski-related knee injury derailed her successful paramedic career and she was encouraged by the PAs in her orthopedist office to pursue this alternate path. At that time, common knowledge about PA career options was limited. Cyndy’s mom said “If you are a really good PA, maybe one day you can even go to nursing school,” referring to the only “non-physician” clinical career she knew. After graduation, she naturally gravitated towards emergency medicine and began working at hospitals in California.

Cyndy had the confidence and personality to shine clinically in the ED. She was excited to be at work every day but had never given formal professional advancement much thought. It was a chance encounter at her first CAPA (California Academy of PAs) that really sparked her path to leadership. She tells the story of how she was laying at the pool playing hooky from the lectures, when a colleague convinced her to give up the sun with the line “Hey, you should come to the board meeting. I think you’d like it. It’s a lot of fun.” Cyndy went to that board meeting, was inspired, and never saw the pool deck again.

As a past president and frequent committee chair, Cyndy credits CAPA with giving her the leadership and advocacy experience as well as the confidence to develop her vision for Advanced Providers at CEP. When Cyndy describes the collaboration between Advanced Providers and Physicians at CEP, she highlights the unique ability of such a large organization to create such high performing and happy “work families” at each practice site. She credits CEP’s supportive physician leadership, progressive atmosphere, and innovative culture for creating a space to develop PAs and NPs along with physicians.

Cyndy refers to this “familial” environment as the best reason why its great to work for CEP, regardless of the role.  She has feels CEP has an clinical environment for every physician, NP, PA or nurse wanting to deliver the highest quality emergency care.

When Cyndy started at CEP there were few PAs. As the organization grew, the numbers of PAs and NPs had to grow with them. Cyndy has been able to create her own leadership path but how does a PA carve out a leadership role when there wasn’t one before?

Well, Cyndy tells it best: “Our former Chief Operating Officer Mark Spiro, MD, began calling me with regulatory questions about the PA/NP side of the practice. He recognized our potential early on. After the third call, I joked that I was going to start charging him by the answer. We laughed, but he took my request seriously. That is how I ended up heading our first PA/NP advisory committee.   Within just a few years, our PA/NP practice has grown from 80 providers to 1,100. CEP has been great about recognizing the need for leadership within the PA/NP ranks. We’ve created leadership positions at the team and regional levels as well as directors of PA/NP Operations, Strategy and Innovation, Recruitment and Retention, and Learning and Development. So we’ve been able to build a very robust program, and I feel lucky to have been a part of that.”

In addition to her love of the clinical practice of emergency medicine, Cyndy has been able to broaden the leadership and development programs that she developed, thus allowing other Advanced Providers to become leaders and contribute to CEP’s commitment to collaboration and flexibility.

Which brings it back to the family environment. CEP America is a truly democratic physician partnership with PAs and NPs employees who feel like true partners in the delivery of quality medical care. The “work family” culture permeates every aspect of the organization, whether it is mentorship, leadership, or fiscal transparency. Cyndy’s longevity with CEP is clear evidence of her deep commitment the organization. It is also a testament to how CEP team members embody and behave in true alignment with CEP’s mission and values. They deliver on their promises to employees and well as patients. This “CEP difference”, that strong commitment to respect and community that brings out the best in people – that is what Cyndy and other leaders at CEP are most proud of at the end of the day.

Image credit: Africa Studio via shutterstock.com