The professionals who staff Flight For Life® Colorado are highly trained, deeply committed and the only air ambulance and critical care transport team in the region staffed exclusively with full-time flight nurses. Their sole responsibility is to staff this program and remain current on all procedures and protocols. Our flight paramedics work closely with the flight nurses, providing a combination of paramedic pre-hospital experience and flight nurse abilities that results in a dynamic team able to handle virtually every situation encountered in air medical transport.
In addition to our specially trained medical staff our helicopter and fixed wing pilots have extensive experience, having a minimum of 3000 hours flight time including Rocky Mountain experience. Since 1993, Flight For Life® Colorado has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS). We are proud that our emergency air and ambulance system was the first in Colorado to achieve this designation.
Kathleen Mayer is the Director of Flight For Life® Colorado. Her career started in 1983 as a flight nurse for Flight For Life® Colorado.
In 1993 she went to The Children's Hospital to serve as its first trauma coordinator and work toward Level I trauma accreditation. In 1999, Kathy returned to Flight For Life to oversee the day to day operations and in 2004 she oversaw the expansion of the program to include our Pueblo and Durango bases creating Flight For Life® Colorado.
Our Physician Advisors play a critical role in directing our procedures and overseeing the care we provide.
Michael Brunko, MD is the Chief Medical Officer for Flight For Life® Colorado and is responsible for the quality and direction of clinical care, research efforts, and evaluation of patient care technologies. Dr. Brunko is actively involved in critical care transport on a national level. He is the past Board Member and President of the Air Medical Physicians' Association and serves on the Board of Directors for the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS).
Dr. Brunko earned his medical degree at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at Denver Health Affiliated Residency in Emergency Medicine. He has a special interest in airway management, hemorrhagic shock resuscitation and evidence-based patient care with attention to out-of-hospital environment.
Dr. Brunko has been Chief Medical Director for the Flight For Life® Colorado program since 2010, only the fourth physician to serve in that capacity in the program's history.
Certification: American Board of Emergency Medicine
Education: Colorado State University, B.S., Microbiology; Saint Louis University School of Medicine, M.D.
Internship: University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, General Surgery
Residency: Denver Health Affiliated Residency in Emergency Medicine
Brian Shields, MD is the Medical Director for Flight For Life® Colorado at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood and St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco. Dr. Shields earned his medical degree at the University of Toledo School of Medicine and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at the Clarian Methodist Hospital of Indiana, where he was the Chief Flight Resident for Lifeline Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS).
Dr. Shields’ interest in flight medicine began in medical school and solidified as a resident in Indiana, where he first participated in helicopter transport.
"My interest in flight medicine began in medical school and was solidified as a resident in Indiana, where I got my first opportunity to participate in helicopter transport. Fortune was on my side when I was able to join Flight For Life® Colorado in 2009. Being able to help educate and train our flight crew members has been an incredibly rewarding role in my career as an emergency physician."
As the medical director, Dr. Shields oversees the clinical practices of the crew members at his base and works to ensure the highest quality of patient care possible.
He has been with Flight For Life® Colorado since 2009.
Certification: American Board of Emergency Medicine, Diplomate 1995, Fellow 1997
Education: University of Toledo School of Medicine
Residency: Clarian Methodist Hospital of Indiana, Chief flight resident 1993-94 Lifeline HEMS
David Hughes, MD is the Medical Director for Flight For Life® Colorado at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango. He earned his medical degree at the University of Utah School of Medicine and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.
In addition to Flight For Life® Colorado, Dr Hughes is involved with several EMS agencies in southwest Colorado including Durango Fire & Rescue, Silverton Ambulance, and Purgatory Ski Patrol. He is also involved with wilderness medicine instruction and research, particularly in the field of frostbite assessment and treatment.
Dr. Hughes began working with Flight For Life® Colorado in 2011.
Certification: Emergency Medicine
Education: University of Utah School of Medicine
Residency: Grand Rapids Medical Education and Research
Lori A. Montagna, MD is the Pediatric Medical Director for Flight For Life® Colorado. She has extensive experience in emergency medicine and pediatric emergency medicine. As the pediatric medical director, Dr. Montagna works to ensure the crews provide the highest quality of care for children, from newborns to young adults. She began working with Flight For Life® Colorado in 2019.
Dr. Montagna earned her medical degree at the University of California, San Diego. She completed her Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and continued on to complete a fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Jacobi Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr. Montagna is passionate about ensuring our teams have the education and tools needed to provide the best possible care for our youngest patients. She has lectured on pediatric emergency care to students, paramedics/EMTs, nurses, residents, APPs and attending physicians on both the local and national levels.
She formerly served as the Director for Pediatric Emergency Medicine Education for the emergency medicine, pediatric and family medicine residencies at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
In her spare time, Dr. Montagna serves as a medical director for the NYC Marathon as well as for other endurance sports events around the world.
Certification: Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medicine
Education: University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Internship: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Residency: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Emergency Medicine
Fellowship: Jacobi Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Casey R. Lyons, DO is the Medical Director for Flight For Life® Colorado at Penrose-St. Francis Health in Colorado Springs. He earned his medical degree at Michigan State University College of Medicine and completed his residency in Emergency medicine at Michigan State University.
Dr. Lyons has worked at hospitals throughout southern Colorado.
He began working with Flight For Life® Colorado in 2020.
Certification: Emergency Medicine
Education: Michigan State University College of Medicine
Residency: Sparrow Emergency Medicine, Michigan State University
Steven M. Leto, DO is the Medical Director for Flight For Life® Colorado at St. Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo. He also serves as the Assistant Medical Director and the Director of Quality at the hospital.
Dr. Leto earned his doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine at the Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Vallejo, CA and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.
He began working with Flight For Life® Colorado in 2020.
Certification: Emergency Medicine
Education: Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O., Vallejo, CA University of Colorado at Denver
Residency: Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL
The flight nurses at Flight For Life® Colorado are registered nurses specializing in emergency and critical care, as well as pre-hospital management. A minimum of five years experience in high-level emergency or intensive care is required prior to being chosen for a position as a flight nurse.
In addition to standard certifications, they undergo intensive training to enhance their assessment skills and the performance of a wide range of invasive skills. While some situations require consultation with a medical control physician, clinical policies provide a great degree of autonomy for the nurse. Flight nurses have the skill and technology available to provide and maintain a hospital-level of care throughout the transport.
Flight nurses are capable of performing the following advanced procedures:
- Endotracheal intubation, including "rapid sequence" (RSI) pharmacologic adjuncts, laryngeal mask airway (LMA) insertion, surgical and percutaneous cricothyrotomy
- Mechanical ventilation
- Chest tube insertion
- Central venous access and pressure monitoring
- Maintenance of invasive hemodynamic and intracranial pressure monitoring
- Complete ALS services, including maintenance of fibrinolytic therapy
- Blood product administration
- High-risk obstetrical care and neonatal resuscitation (NRP)
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
- Intra-aortic balloon pump transport
The flight paramedic is aboard all helicopter flights. The combination of the paramedic's pre-hospital experience with the flight nurse's abilities creates a dynamic team that is able to handle virtually every situation encountered in air medical transport. A paramedic must have at least three years experience in an active ALS system to be considered for a position with Flight For Life® Colorado. Building on their experiences in pre-hospital care, paramedics are given additional training to enhance their skill level and enable them to assist the flight nurse in maintaining the hospital-level of care.
Flight For Life® Colorado fixed-wing pilots come from various backgrounds. Several of our pilots have previous airline experience including, American Eagle, Great Lakes Airlines, Air Midwest, Salmon Air, Skyway, US Airways and United Airlines. Others have flown scheduled freight routes for cargo airlines in the Rocky Mountain region. Many were also flight instructors at one time. All pilots are required to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and have a minimum of 3000 hours flight time including Rocky Mountain experience.
Mayo Aviation uses Flight Safety International for all initial and recurrent pilot training. Pilots visit Flight Safety twice a year for comprehensive ground and simulator training on normal and emergency operations.
Flight For Life® Colorado helicopter pilots and mechanics are a diverse group with a common goal. That goal is the safe accomplishment of our mission throughout the state, whether that involves transporting patients from a catastrophic scene to inserting an avalanche dog and team on a high remote mountain top. No two flights are ever the same so we prepare for the inevitable changes that come with every mission. Every mission begins with an aircraft that has been checked and maintained by our mechanic group. Our mechanics average 22 years of A&P experience, 15 years working on the AS350 series and 7 years working for Flight For Life® Colorado. Some of our mechanics received their initial training through the military while others opted for civilian schools and training. Regardless of the path that brought them to us, they are the backbone of our program as everything we do begins with an airworthy aircraft.
The pilots that fly these aircraft average 29 years of rotary wing experience, 6,550 flight hours, 350 hours of night vision goggle time and have worked at Flight For Life® Colorado for about 9 years. Most of our pilots have military backgrounds with the diverse flight experiences that come with that profession. Due to the location of our bases and the various missions we perform, adequate mountain flying experience is a mandatory job requirement. Our pilots receive regular scheduled training and evaluation flights from the Air Methods Safety and Standardization departments.
The role of the EMT-Basic in Flight For Life® Colorado is primarily to drive our Denver-based critical care ambulances. Stationed at St. Anthony Hospital Colorado, these ambulances are used for ICU to ICU, ED to ED and ED to ICU transports, and to assist or replace our helicopters in certain emergency situations, i.e., when weather prohibits flight. In addition to their ambulance responsibilities, our EMT's also assist the flight nurses in preparing patients for transport.
Flight Operations is the business hub of Flight For Life® Colorado. Located at St. Anthony Hospital, they handle all billing, HR functions, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, requests for helicopter safety training, public relations flights, and tracking statewide program statistics, as well as providing support for many of the other day to day operations at Flight For Life® Colorado.
The Communication Specialists work in the Flight For Life® Colorado Communication Center handling the dispatching and communications needs for all of Flight For Life Colorado's services. When a request for a transport is received the communications specialist determines which of Flight For Life® Colorado's vehicles is appropriate for the transport and activates the crew. While in flight, the location and progress of the vehicles are tracked via radio and satellight communications. The Communication Specialists also handle the coordination of other services that may be required on the scene.
Betsy Phelan is our Flight Chaplain. Her primary responsibilities are to provide emotional and spiritual support to our crews and staff, and our patients and families with a focus on secondary trauma resiliency support. Betsy accomplishes this by providing:
- Continuing education presentations on topics related to the emotional/spiritual dimensions of critical care transport
- Debriefings/defusings after traumatic transports
- Intake and referral services