Dr. Cynthia Griffin is an emergency physician and flight physician from Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Griffin believes that laughter is the best medicine. When she’s not conquering the ED or saving lives in the sky, she can be found spending time with her family and her adorable chocolate lab. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!

  • Name: Cynthia M. Griffin, D.O.
  • Location: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Current job(s): Flight Physician with UW Med Flight at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI (we fly Physicians & RNs); ED Physician with St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, WI
  • 1 word that describes how you stay healthy: HEMS
  • Primary behavior/activity to help de-stress: Laughing a lot!

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. The 21 Day Fix Program workout videos and kickboxing.
  2. Playing with my chocolate lab, Maddie.
  3. Staying active in the HEMS/ED community by traveling to conferences and diversifying my EM work and meeting peers who do the same.

What is your ideal workout?

Pilates Fix and Cardio Fix in the comfort of my own home. The 21 Day Fix Program has quick 30 minute workouts which include cardio, weights with drop sets, pilates, and yoga. They help me get a good sweat going and I always feel so much better afterwards. When I’m super stressed and frustrated I’ll even do a routine of kickboxing with a punching bag/dummy at home.

Do you track your fitness? How?

Nope! Well, on second thought, it depends on how well I can fit in my Nomex flight suit and how winded I get when running upstairs! Every flight that involves running up multiple flights of stairs in order to get to the helipad/helicopter. There is no dedicated elevator and although we have an elevator key, we rarely use it because it can inconvenience others. Running up those stairs can make me super winded when I haven’t been working out regularly.

How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?

Pre-shift: Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. I try to make sure I get a good 8 hours beforehand and I usually have breakfast with my husband before my pre-work sleep-fest. I tend to work a string of nights. On the first night, I’ll take 25 mg trazodone by mouth, put on an eye mask, and put on my microwaveable heated booties. This all helps me sleep like a baby. Once I wake up, I try and get a quick 30 minute workout completed before I leave for work.

Post-shift: Breakfast with the hubs… are you seeing this pattern? Breakfast makes everything better! Afterwards, I try to get in a few hours of sleep so that I’m not exhausted.

How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?

Protein shakes, water, and coffee with whipped cream. Sometimes I’ll take mountain house meals to work if I am in a rush. During a string of nights, my days and nights are flip flopped and I’m fortunate to have a very understanding husband and puppy.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

I’m totally not, but that’s my baseline! I laugh a lot with friends, family, co-workers, and my patients (when appropriate). I try to not take anything too seriously and I have been given the nickname #NoFilter (named by my scribe, which by the way, having scribes is amazing). I also have a great husband who helps me decompress and keeps me in check. He lets me rant when I need to and also points out to me when I am working too much and need some time off.

I love working in the ED, but what really keeps me in check is the work I get to do when I’m on the helicopter. It is absolutely as awesome as it sounds. I get to help out my EMS friends and having one patient to focus on (albeit critical and in an unpredictable environment) is a great change of pace from the ED. I love a good scene flight or a critical care case. Nothing beats the feeling of getting to help out fellow ED peers in outside facilities and bringing their most critical patients back to UW. Lifting off in a helicopter will never get old and the views are always incredible!

What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?

Manipulative and litigious patients tend to wear me out. I find it challenging to deal with the feeling that I can’t please all my patients, even though I am making the best decisions for their care. I also struggle with spreading myself too thin, because as a physician there are just so many different opportunities.

In dealing with angry, manipulative, or litigious patients, I found this podcast via ERCAST to be super helpful and it’s changed my practice. I remind myself that I am in the ED by choice, and that my patients are most likely having a worse day than me.

Getting the chance to work in emergency medicine is amazing and I remind myself that every day I get to make a difference and connect with people. Plus, I get to fly regularly!

Going to conferences and meeting a bunch of my peers, as well as partaking in social media (Twitter and emDOCS) helps me decompress,. Plus, it’s nice to see how others manage EM challenges.


Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

“Taking care of yourself will help you take better care of your patients.”
“Trust in your training.”
“You’ve got this.”

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?

Minh Le Cong
Paula Ferrada
Zaffer Qasim

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Editor, How I Stay Healthy in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta
Zafrina Poonja, MD


Emergency Medicine Physician @ Vancouver General Hospital. Assistant Editor @ALiEMteam. Lover of travel, soccer, and boat shoes.