“I can’t think of doing anything but cardiac surgery,” says Irina Gruboy, PA-C. “It is my true passion in life because we take people into the operating room and about three or four hours later, we change lives for the better. It is so gratifying knowing that you are part of something so monumental for them and I think it’s absolutely incredible.”
Irina developed her passion for cardiothoracic surgery while in PA school. “I originally thought I would go into OB/GYN, but I had a conversation with a senior resident that changed my mind,” she explains. “We talked about how wonderful the heart is and how incredible it is to be one who can fix it. That’s when I caught the ‘bug’ for cardiothoracic surgery as I call it and knew that’s what I would be doing.”
A native of Odesa, Ukraine, Irina emigrated to the U.S. in 1989. She earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physician assistant studies. She then acquired a master’s in advanced physician assistant studies and a PhD in healthcare administration.
Irina joined AP Health in July 2021 and works in the cardiac OR at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m involved clinically in all aspects of care, from pre-op to post-op,” Irina says. “But the operating room is my happy place. I get to work with great surgeons, do a lot of coronary bypass surgeries, and valve replacements where peoples’ lives depend on us. I also love teaching and mentoring younger practitioners. I always tell them, ‘Your success is my success. And if you surpass me in your career, it will be my success once again.’”
Irina Found a Home in Florida and AP Health
In joining AP Health, Irina moved to South Florida and left behind more than 20 years working as a cardiothoracic PA for hospitals in the New York & New Jersey area.
“My primary reason for moving to Florida was to be with my daughters, who are both in the area pursuing medical degrees,” Irina says. “A friend who had recently joined AP Health told me about a position there, so I checked it out and made the move. I’ve been very happy with the team here.”
“Clinically speaking, my job is not that different from previous positions I’ve held. What is most different is that this company is led by (CEO) Toby Gray, who is a PA by trade, which I think makes a difference in how people are treated. The leadership team makes it clear that they care about every single person on an individual basis.
“For example, if there’s something I’d like to speak with my manager or even Toby about, I’d have no problem shooting him a text message and saying, ‘If you have a second, I’d like to chat.’ And in less than five to 10 minutes, I get either a text response, or more likely, a direct phone call back to me, and that is priceless. No matter how good I have been and no matter how many years I have put into other institutions where I’ve worked, I doubt that I would be able to get a CEO on the phone within a 10-minute timeframe.”
Irina says that while no company has been immune to the staffing challenges over the past year, she thinks the company has been as flexible as possible in creating a work/life balance for employees.
“By its nature, heart surgery is unpredictable, so schedules can be crazy,” she says. “But the leaders of the company have shown a great deal of appreciation for extra work and dedication. They have come through for me and my coworkers and have supported us along the way. I feel like they are on the front lines with me and the rest of the group to make things happen while working to create a balance of work and lifestyle.”
“I think it all comes down to the leadership here and the culture they have created,” she continues. “It’s fair. It’s appreciative. It’s understanding. Once again, it’s run by people of our own kind. They may not wear scrubs as much as I do anymore, but they have been in the trenches. That is a big difference, because they understand the essence of the day-to-day operations and they can better distribute both managerial aspects of the work as well as day-to-day assignments with people that work here. They have become a work family to me.”