Humans of UCLA Anesthesiology: Cynthia Leaks, MSN, CRNA

Introducing Cynthia Leaks, MSN, CRNA

Cynthia Leaks and her family taking a selfie on Christmas

January 29, 2022

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Dallas, TX and raised in Amarillo, TX. I graduated from Baylor University in Waco, TX in 2002.

Where do you live now? Why did you pick it?
In 2003, I followed my husband, Broderick, to California 2 weeks after we married. He was getting his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and did his final year of internship at the University of Southern California. They hired him afterward, and 10 years later he became the Director of Student Counseling and Mental Health at USC Student Health and Vice Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. He is also Faculty in Residence at USC, so we now live with the students at the USC Village. It has been a great
experience living in community with the students and exposing our children to university life. We have been there for 4.5 years and will be searching for a house in 3.5 years when his Faculty in Residence contract is up.

How did you decide to become a CRNA? What is the path like to train to become a CRNA?
I went to college with the intent of becoming a physician like my father but found that it was not going to fit my personality after I graduated with my BA in Biology in 2002. I wanted to stay in the healthcare field, so I chose to become a nurse by graduating from a 1-year accelerated program at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles in 2007. I worked at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset for 3 years in their step-down unit and then 2 years in their Cardiac Surgery ICU. I wanted a higher education and saw that obtaining a masters in nurse anesthesia was the best option for me. I graduated from USC's Program of Nurse Anesthesia in 2014. It was the absolute best decision I made for my career path. I love having the knowledge and skills needed to care for patients in their most vulnerable state. My ultimate goal, which I explain to my patients, is to keep them safe. Patients must put their trust in someone to care for them when they are unable to care themselves. I understand the high importance of trust, and I do my best to keep that trust.

Why did you pick UCLA?
My first 5.5 years as a CRNA were spent at Loma Linda. I absolutely loved being there, but the commute distance was starting to become an issue in my life. I had been told of other places that were hiring CRNAs, but I did not jump until I was told about UCLA. I love the variety of cases in which I can participate in a nationally recognized healthcare system that stays current with technology and innovations to advance healthcare. It is a wonderful teaching facility, which is a priority for me. It is highly important to keep learning and advancing my knowledge, and I believe UCLA is the best place for me for those reasons.

Is there any particular kind of anesthesia case you enjoy doing more than others? Do you have any specific interests within anesthesia?
I prefer to be exposed to any and all kinds of anesthesia. I do not have a particular kind that I enjoy more than others, but the most exciting and challenging anesthesia is pediatric anesthesia for me. I was assigned those cases in CVL, MRI, GI, IR, and the OR at Loma Linda over 50% of the time. The best feeling of accomplishment that I have had as a CRNA was when I intubated a 3-day old infant, while in close communication with 2 attendings, downstairs in the MRI suite.

What are your interests outside of anesthesia/outside of work?
My interests are shopping on Amazon and watching TV! I could watch TV all day and binge out on Netflix. I guess I should say my children though. 🙂 I have a 13-year-old son and a 2.5-year-old daughter. Our son attends Polytechnic in Pasadena and is a really smart and kind kid who enjoys science, soccer, basketball, and flag football. Our daughter is a handful and a real joy! She recently has been finding it necessary to wake up at 3 am and come jump in our bed. She enjoys making us all dance together to her music, eating pasta, going to daycare to see her friends, and jumping all over her big brother.

Where are you planning for your next vacation?
My husband and I plan to take a kid-free trip to Costa Rica in August. Super excited about the thought of being alone so that we can get some uninterrupted sleep. 🙂

What might people not know about you/might surprise people?
I am 5th in line of 14 children. I am a former Division 1 athlete at Baylor University and lettered in 2 sports (Basketball and Track).