After seeing nurses in her organization receive recognition for their outstanding work, Sherry Bogar, CMA (AAMA), set out to give medical assistants their chance to shine. “My organization supports the nationally recognized DAISY Award, which is given by a foundation that recognizes nurses. Medical assistants aren’t eligible for this, but our work is just as noteworthy,” says Bogar.

Using the DAISY program as a guide, Bogar made it her mission to establish the Medical Assisting Shining Star Award at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Health in Galveston, Texas. “About three years ago, I started looking into this. Then about 18 months ago, an amazing ambulatory liaison nurse named Jennifer Bledsoe came along. She’s a huge cheerleader for medical assistants,” says Bogar.

Bledsoe formed a medical assisting council, which was tasked with finding ways to get UTMB’s nearly 300 medical assistants across its three campuses more engaged within the ambulatory setting. Bogar’s 15 years of experience and involvement in the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) as both a past president and 2018–2019 vice president of the Texas Society of Medical Assistants—among other achievements—earned her the role of chair on the council. “One of the things that I talked about first was that our retention will go up and medical assistants’ desire to stay will increase with recognition,” recalls Bogar.

While she stressed that the recognition did not have to be elaborate, she did want it to distinguish medical assistants from other health care providers. “Our organization has GEM [going the extra mile] cards that can go to any employee who goes above and beyond, but we needed something particular only to medical assistants,” she says.

From that sentiment, the Shining Star Award was born. Given quarterly to a medical assistant who demonstrates exceptional work, the award comes with a star pin and gift card for scrubs. “We needed to give them something that they could put on their name badge so that when they look at it, it reminds them that they are special and unique,” says Bogar.

A supervisor or physician can nominate a medical assistant by filling out an application and answering the question “How does this medical assistant prove to you that they are the shining star for the clinic?”

“The supervisor has to state more than ‘the medical assistant worked hard.’ We require a detailed write-up and then a five-member, peer-based committee votes on it,” explains Bogar.

Last April, the first winner of the award was named: Diana Martinez. In the application, her supervisor stated, “Over the past 18 months, the Breast Health Center has become a multispecialty clinic to include neurosurgery, urology, palliative care, thoracic surgery, and urogynecology. In each instance, Diana has embraced the change and adapted to the dynamic needs of the providers and patients. Her drive to learn more, to be better each day, is a pleasure to experience.” Bogar says Martinez represents the award perfectly.

“I’m so happy the award is finally in place, but it was not an easy feat,” says Bogar. “The program went through lots of people—the medical assisting council, ambulatory retention council, and the ambulatory leadership—who all had input on changes to the criteria and application.”

In fact, the application changed several times to accommodate all the input. “The work paid off. It’s important for medical assistants to know their role is recognized,” says Bogar. “My hope is that every medical assistant who hears about this program feels empowered to approach their organization about starting their own recognition program. In a dream world, I’d love this to become a nationally recognized program for medical assistants just like the DAISY award is for nurses.”