Enterprising Med Student Takes the Lead on Physician Leadership

By Andy Smith | AAPL
August 1, 2017

An aspiring CMO encourages peers to develop a plan for administrative success, while recognizing that the path to the C-suite begins with clinical experience.


Only 27, Nicholas Cozzi already has an MBA, is studying pediatric medicine, has interned for the Secret Service, has co-founded a startup business, and aspires to be the CMO of a metropolitan hospital. | AAPL

Just because you’re a med student, it doesn’t mean there are no leadership roles for you. There are, and Nicholas Cozzi suggests you find them and dive in.

If there’s such a thing as a typical med student, Cozzi probably isn’t it. Only 27, he already has an MBA, is studying pediatric medicine at Central Michigan University, has interned for the Secret Service, has co-founded a startup business, and aspires to be the CMO of a metropolitan hospital.

Big plans for someone entering his final year of med school? Perhaps, although hundreds of students are taking advanced business courses in med school with the goal of becoming hospital administrators.

What sets Cozzi apart is an interest in problem-solving and a reputation as an entrepreneur. One product he co-founded, the web portal ShareCase, allows students to work on teams in case-based curricula, similar to real-life medical situations, and can be used in hospital settings for resident education or institutional troubleshooting. Cozzi and his two colleagues won $30,000 for its invention in a Shark Tank-style competition — money they used to fund the project and employees.

Cozzi is cognizant that the proper path for emerging physicians like himself is to go into patient care before pursuing administrative positions.

“But at the same time it doesn’t mean that you can’t be on an ethics committee, a performance committee or a performance review committee,” he says. “These are things that are opportunities, specifically value-added as an emerging resident that you can bring to the table.”newcozziqa.jpg

Cozzi has a short checklist for early leadership success that includes a need to:

  • Show initiative.
  • Be intentional in efforts to launch programs and events.
 Following his own advice, Cozzi co-founded a pipeline program for high school students that provides mentorship opportunities, career exploration and leadership training.

 “Most of all,” Cozzi says, “it gives young people opportunities to grow.”

 Cozzi, a member of the American Association for Physician Leadership® since 2015, also co-founded an organization for Central Michigan med students called Business in Medicine, which encourages them to engage with community health care executives, hosting what Cozzi calls a “Lunch & Learn” in which CEOs and other physician leaders discuss a wide range of topics, including:

  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Physician compensation.
  • Negotiation.
  • The Affordable Care Act or its potential replacement.
  • Physician leadership.
  • Medicare relative value units (RVUs).

 “These are things they don’t teach that I think we’re missing out on as medical students. These are things that I’ve always pushed,” Cozzi says. “We need to get more medical students on that par. We need to teach them what to look for on a contract because that makes them more valuable for future positions.”

Many med students fall into what Cozzi describes as a “cookie-cutter” mode in which they tout their science education and achievements, “and that’s all great,” he says.  “But the way our health care system is going we really need people thinking differently; we need people who can embrace that leadership challenge. I am a big proponent to jumping in and trying to get yourself on a committee right away; maybe not necessarily a leadership role but working your way up there.”

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