When asked to describe his roles with Sunstar and the Bay Area Youth Track and Field (BAYTAF), Leroy Funderburk paraphrases former pro football coach Tony Dungy: “My only job,” he says, “is to make the team better.” As Operations Supervisor at Sunstar, Funderburk moves seamlessly from solving staffing issues and overseeing equipment exchanges to taking a leadership role at especially complicated trauma scenes.
The job requires a balance between managerial and field duties, which Funderburk enjoys. “I like that I’m in a position to have a real-time connection with the field personnel and still have a hand in the leadership of the organization,” he says. “Not so high that I’ve lost touch with the employees, but high enough” to act as an advocate for field employees when management weighs decisions that will affect them.
Although he has a “regular” office, Funderburk says his primary office is really in the field. He jokes that his office “has four wheels and a steering wheel.” He regularly supports field teams on calls that meet certain predefined criteria, such as when three or more ambulances are requested to one accident or trauma scene. He will also respond to highly specialized calls, or when children are involved, or when prior experience indicates that he should. During mass casualties, he oversees the transport sector, meaning that he decides where to send ambulances so that no one emergency department is overwhelmed with patients. Proper guidance of transport in mass casualties is crucial to ensuring patients receive the lifesaving care they need in as quickly as possible.
An EMT since 1986, Funderburk’s work and dedication to providing exceptional emergency medical care has earned him a number of honors over the years. In 2007, he was named both National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians EMT of the year and Pinellas County EMT of the year. The honor that he says really changed his life came earlier, in 1999. That year, he was named a “Star of Life” for Florida by the American Ambulance Association. The Star of Life is presented each year to professionals who represent the best of the emergency medical community. With characteristic humility, Funderburk says that being named a star of life in 1999 was “a turning point” for him. “I didn’t want to diminish the quality or the meaning of that honor,” he explains, “so from that year on, I tried to be the person everyone thought I was.”
Over the years, Funderburk has more than lived up to that honor, both on the job and off. As a single father, he raised three daughters, now 18, 20 and 22, all of whom Sunstar Community Outreach Coordinator Charlene Cobb describes as “amazing.” He also chairs the Bay Area Youth Track and Field program, where he has coached young athletes and officiated at meets from local high schools to the University of South Florida and beyond. Because the nature of his job at Sunstar means that he often sees children and teens during times of trauma and injury, he says that it is nice to have BAYTAF in his life so that he can coach youth in a healthy, positive setting.
As a coach to young athletes on the track oval and to young emergency medical professionals at Sunstar, Funderburk holds himself to the highest standards of professionalism, leadership, and honesty. Ms. Cobb says that he “goes to bat for employees when they need someone in their corner. He strikes a good balance with management. He’s a great caregiver. He raised three amazing girls on his own.” And while he is reluctant to accept praise for all he does for his employees and the community, the people around him know how well he deserves it.