Career Planning

Duty to Serve: Federal Law Enforcement and the Foundation for Emergency Medicine

Emergency medicine attracts a unique personality dedicated to excellence and teamwork, driven to work hard and push the boundaries of what is possible.

Here we present the backstory of two emergency medicine physicians-in-training linked by the bond of having spent time working with federal law enforcement prior to medical school. Both trainees share the value of hard work and service.

Aaron R. Kuzel, DO, MBA
Forensic Scientist, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2013-2015)

Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity are the core values of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each member of the FBI, whether they are a Special Agent, scientist or support staff, swears an oath to uphold these values in their duty to serve the American people and seek justice for those afflicted by criminal enterprise. This strict adherence to these principles over generations has secured the FBI’s place as the most prestigious law enforcement and domestic intelligence agency in the world. As a former FBI forensic scientist serving in the FBI Laboratory, I endeavored to embody these values in each case and service provided to the public as a representative of the FBI. Although I now serve a new mission to provide emergency care to the Louisville community, I continue to endeavor to uphold these values in my practice; to care for those most vulnerable in the community, uplift the downtrodden, and provide compassion to those experiencing unconscionable tragedy.

I am humbled to have served as a forensic scientist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My experience with the FBI prepared me for a career in emergency medicine, providing the fortitude to adapt to challenges of emergency medicine residency during a pandemic. During my brief appointment to the FBI, I had the opportunity to serve in the forensic evaluation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) and perform research in X-Ray fluorescent technologies in the identification of human skeletal remains. Now as an emergency physician, I have adopted the core values of the FBI as my own principles in my practice of emergency medicine and how I best serve my patients.

My experience in the FBI was formative, preparing me for the rigors and challenges of emergency medicine. I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to serve the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The experiences and lessons of the FBI continue to have an impact on me as a physician and in my patient care. While I am no longer working with the FBI, I continue to apply these values in my work as a physician. Faithful fidelity to my studies, my colleagues, and my patients, bravery to accept the challenges inherent to the practice of medicine, and, most importantly, the integrity to acknowledge the inevitable opportunities for reanalysis and reevaluation in order to develop into a more competent physician.

Nicholas P. Cozzi, MD, MBA
Intern, United States Secret Service (2012)

I vividly recall the scene as I entered a non-descript Chicago-based government building as a 22-year-old starting my first day of internship with the United States Secret Service. Fast-forwarding 7 years later, I would feel that same trepidation, sweaty palms, and sense of inadequacy as I began my internship as an emergency medicine resident. As I entered the lobby, I was struck by a steel phrase chiseled into the wall: “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” I knew at the moment the phrase would be more than a motto but a way I wanted to live my life. The fact is that we are all trying to be worthy of trust and confidence as we enter the thousands of emergency departments across the nation. I believe all emergency physicians-in-training are striving to be worthy of the trust and confidence of our patients, our co-residents, and our support teams. We bear witness to our patients who are enduring some of the worst moments of their lives in situations thought unimaginable. We listen to guarded secrets. We hold the hands of grieving widows and new mothers as they enter the next phase of their lives.

As an intern, I performed many intern-level tasks. I made copies, learned how to recognize fake paper currency, and gained an appreciation for the work ethic of our nation’s unheralded professionals and their dedication to the mission and our nation. They sacrifice at tremendous personal cost to their families much to ensure the continuity of our government and our nation’s blood supply, our financial system. My experience culminated with learning and participating in the planning and execution of Election Night 2012. The breadcrumbs of event medicine were dropped that evening in McCormick Place in Chicago, and it ultimately led me to my passion for EMS.

As I transitioned to medical school after my MBA, I realized the key to success was more about being a problem solver and making the people around you better. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to complete an internship with the Secret Service at such a formative time in my life.

Top 10 Pearls

  1. Velocity is more important than speed. Ensure your professional ambition has direction and surround yourself with people who can kindle the flame.
  2. The ability to quickly establish a genuine rapport with a wide variety of people is a superpower.
  3. Second-order thinking separates pros from amateurs.
  4. Celebrate your teammates’ wins. Other people’s success does not mean you are failing.
  5. Exceeding expectations, accurate documentation, and being deadline-cognizant are ingredients to the secret sauce of success.
  6. Avoid complacency in your studies as an emergency physician. Our patients expect continued lifelong learning and growth as evidence-based medicine progresses.
  7. Always remember the mission. Remember the common mission to serve our specialty, our communities, and our patients.
  8. It is courageous to care for yourself, know your own limitations, and call for help.
  9. Failure is a painful but incredible teacher. Failures in medicine teach us wisdom and prudence. They prevent us from falling into greater disaster. Persevere through the difficult challenges; you will arise stronger and wiser.
  10.  Your word is your bond. Always preserve your integrity.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, or the United States government.

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