I met Cyndi in 2002. She was a first-year Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellow and she was bubbly and full of energy. The thing I remember most about her was just that, she was a happy person who always gave me a smile. Cyndi, or more properly, Cynthia Diane Ray, MD, was someone I trained, a colleague for 12 years, and most importantly my friend.
Cyndi grew up in Miami, Oklahoma; her father was the local town physician. Cyndi spent the weekdays in town and the weekends on the farm in Kansas. Yes, the farm. Seeing Cyndi always in a dress or a skirt, and according to her “appropriate heels,” most people could not imagine her driving a tractor, racing 4 wheelers, and shooting varmints. In Miami, Cyndi grew up a ballerina. She competed, performed, and taught dancing, and thought that this was the direction of her life. At some point, while working in her Dad’s medical office, Cyndi changed her mind, and chose medicine.
It is amazing the commonalities that Cyndi and I had despite coming from 2 different parts of the country. We did our residencies at the same program and both had the same mentor. Cyndi completed her Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship at Henry Ford, both as I did and while I was staff there. Finally, she trained and eventually became my partner in interventional pulmonology.
It was during her fellowship that I asked Cyndi if she would be interested in training in interventional pulmonology. She was all in, that was until our first day in the operating room (OR). She just could not hold the rigid up for the entire day. I told her I was worried that she was not strong enough to do procedures all day and that she should not come back until she could do 25 push-ups. About 3 weeks later, Cyndi marches into my office, closes the door, does not say a thing, and does 30 push-ups. As she walked out of my office, all she said was “see you in the OR!”
As her career developed, Cyndi realized that what she loved more than anything, was taking care of people. They were not patients to Cyndi, they were people. In a fast-paced world of medicine Cyndi knew how to slow down and make time for each person. Occasionally, you would see her hand someone $20 for gas when she felt they needed it. Cyndi truly cared about people.
Cyndi always looked good, usually carrying a Louis Vuitton bag, but what you would not see is her wearing a fur cap while on her annual dog sled trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Cyndi was the a very successful Chair of the Tri-State Thoracic Society Meeting for years, but out of the limelight she would stay home and cook for friends. On weekends, she was the lead singer for a rock band, but loved her country music. She would spend hours in the bronchoscopy suite and OR and then go home, where she took care of her dogs, and not just her dogs, she worked for the Weimaraner Rescue, always taking care of dogs that needed more love. Cyndi interacted and mentored many women in medicine, from students to interventional pulmonologists. Cyndi took a special pride in being a part of Women in Interventional Pulmonology. Outside of the professional realm, Cyndi had people live with her, to get them on their feet. I remember when she gave a car to a young girl that she felt needed the help.
Truly, to her end, Cyndi always went out of her way to care and take care of people, all the way to the day she pulled over to help a group of teenagers whose car had flipped. Some would have thought that was her last time giving, but it was not. Cyndi donated all of her organs, skin, and tissue, so others would have a chance.
I miss Cyndi very much; our entire staff does. We miss her smiles, her knowing, her hugs when she thought you needed one. We miss her laughing in pink lead with high heels! We have named a fund in her memory, the “Cynthia Ray Patient Rescue Fund.” It is for our patients that need the extra help she always provided. I think she would like that. I know many of you are sad thinking about our loss of Cyndi, but do me a favor, take a minute to remember a happy memory. I know that she would want you to smile thinking about her rather than cry.
Michael J. Simo, MD
Henry Ford Hospital