What It Really Means To Have Your Work Be A Family

A family, says Dr. Kurtis Mayz, doesn’t always get along: “It’s not all rainbows and butterflies,” he said in a recent interview. “We fight, we have our disagreements, we play together, we love together, and at the end of the day, we’re a family. We all pull together in the same direction and we move forward.”

It may be one of the greatest clichés in business to say that your company is like a family. In some cases, the cliché is grounded in deep-seated truths about company culture, but in other cases the comparison rings hollow. For Mayz, the comparison is real. US Acute Care Solutions is not always a family he’s gotten along with, but it’s been a family nonetheless. Especially when times were tough.

The Path to Emergency Medicine

Mayz is one of four siblings. He grew up in New York with a lot of ambition. At first, he wanted to go into law. While binging court TV shows as a kid, he would don a red bathrobe, turn his toy box into a judge’s bench, his Fisher-Price hammer into a gavel, and his closet into a judge’s chambers. In high school, thinking it was important to be a good citizen, he picked a crumpled piece of paper off the floor – it was an ad for an open house at the local ambulance squad.

Mayz had no interest in medicine at the time, but there was free pizza at the squad event, so he went – and fell in love. He got to wear the cool uniform and drive in the big box with lights and sirens flashing through town, but mostly he got to serve his community. By 16, he was a certified first responder and by 18 he was an EMT and training others. “I really got a taste of the leadership side of a healthcare environment,” he said.

Mayz attended American University in Washington DC and majored in biology and political science, preparing himself to go into both law school and medical school. After graduating, he received a scholarship to attend the University of Illinois in Champaign, which had a medical program and a top law school. Mid-way through the dual degree, the university opened a new state of the art business school building, and Mayz signed up for an MBA as well. “I kept asking on both sides, in law and medicine, what’s the one thing you wish you knew more about. And invariably the answer was always, I wish I knew more about the business end of what I did.” Mayz graduated with an MD, MBA, and JD.

“This is a family”

Mayz had a clear career path in mind: become a pediatric emergency medicine physician, go into risk management, and possibly healthcare administration. He did his residency at Stony Brook University on Long Island. That was the first time he encountered US Acute Care Solutions, which hosted a dinner his first year there. “They had me at the large raw seafood tower,” Mayz said, noting the second time the promise of food lured him in to a career decision.

Dr. Carmella Percy presented, and long-time recruiters Ann Benson and Jim Nicholas were also there. “The underlying subtext of the presentation that I walked away with was, ‘this is a family’”

Mayz attended the USACS dinners (then EMP) every year. After residency, Mayz headed to the University of Michigan for a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine and started moonlighting at USACS’ site at Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc. “I got to teach and train residents and be a part of USACS, and had a great time working there,” he recalled.

By the time he was finished, Mayz was married and looking for leadership positions. He became Assistant Director at a USACS site in Joliet, Illinois. Shortly afterward, his director, Dr. Amer Aldeen, moved into leadership as head of CEME, and Mayz became associate director and eventually, director. Everything was on track. He was living his dream.

Personal and Professional Tragedy

“I had moved up to leadership very quickly,” Mayz said. “And then in that process, tragedy struck.” Mayz had been married for seven years, having met his wife in a college church group. Then one day, he came home from work to find she had left him.

Four months later, for business reasons, the contract ended at the Joliet site. “It was a quick rise and fall. And it was a super, super difficult time for me on multiple levels,” Mayz said.

To begin with Mayz had just finished working hard with his team to make sure USACS kept the Joliet contract. He felt like he put his blood, sweat, and tears into it, asking the colleagues who reported to him to act above and beyond. They kept the contract, but then USACS pulled out anyway. Neither he nor anyone else who had worked so hard for him had a job any more.

Then there was his marriage. He was getting divorced, and the dissolution had come as a huge shock. Mayz found himself jobless, separated, and in a place where he no friends or family to support him. But he still had his colleagues at USACS.

“At least through the personal part of it, my partners were really great, in that sometimes I just needed a shoulder to cry on, and they were there for me, and they were there to listen,” he said. “There were times when I needed them to cover shifts, and the stepped up and covered shifts. They came together knowing that I was going through a rough time personally to support me in whatever way I needed.”

Even when not at work, Mayz said he would get texts from various partners just checking in. Many invited him for a drink, or over to their family’s house for dinner. Mayz was trying to think about what the next step would be. He started talking to Dr. Mark Slabinski and Dr. Shawn Radford, who at the time was director of the Firefighters, USACS’ traveling physicians program. “They really came around and tried to find another spot for me to go.”

“They knew my heart was for me to still be in leadership. But at the same time, I needed to take a step back,” Mayz said. He decided to join the Firefighter program.

The USACS Family

Mayz’s first Firefighting post was at a USACS site in Albany. There, he found one of his colleagues had been through a similar personal experience – “one day he just asked if I wanted to chat for a while about it,” Mayz said. “How he handled it, how he went through the experience, and he just asked me, ‘do you need anything. If you need someone give me a call, I’ve been there.’”

Throughout the experience, from Joliet to Albany and to now, Mayz said USACS has lived up to its initial promise back at that recruiting dinner on Long Island. USACS truly is a family. And that family has been there for him.

“It’s not that everyone loves each other all the time and everything is always super… This is a family. You’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some, but if you have faith in the fact that everybody is committed to your well-being, you’re gonna pull through this one way or another.”