How Dr. Don Kosiak Combines His Unique Background and His Passions Today as Leidos’ Chief Medical Officer
Don Kosiak, M.D., has served the U.S. Army National Guard since he was a first-year medical student in the late '90s. As he looks back on his career so far, he sees how his medical and military experience dovetailed, preparing him to land in the exact right seat: chief medical officer and senior vice president at Leidos.
“I have the world's greatest job," he says of this opportunity to combine his passions and experience within one meaningful role. “I would never have guessed that saying 'yes' to help roll out electronic health records at a meeting 20 years ago would lead me to this point."
The Journey That Prepared Don to Lead the Leidos Health Team
Don's career consists of a mix of medical missions for the Army National Guard and medical leadership at not-for-profit organizations. This background uniquely prepared him to take on the chief medical officer role at Leidos.
In 1998, Don joined the Army National Guard. Three years into his service, he began his post-medical school residency at the Mayo Clinic. Then, just three months into his residency, the U.S. watched in horror as the twin towers collapsed in New York City.
“The events of 9/11 drove the focus for the next few years," Don says. He deployed to Iraq after finishing his residency in 2004. In an old bath house they'd converted into a makeshift trauma bay, Don's team provided care to hundreds of patients.
“Our Army medics were so young. It wasn't until I looked back on the photos years later that I fully realized what an amazing transformation we asked of those young people," he says.
Alongside their medical readiness mission and trauma care, Don's team did what they could to serve the local population. His father, then a colonel and physician, was also deployed and worked on the other side of the Tigris River.
“It was a unique experience to serve with my father," Don says. “I remember getting to eat Thanksgiving dinner together and doing a joint interview about our service on CNN."
With just days left in his first deployment to Iraq, Don suffered an injury on the battlefield. He was flown home, gaining a patient's perspective on the military evacuation system.
“So, I not only help serve the VA in my role at Leidos, but I'm also an end-user of its services," he says. “I get to see it from both perspectives which helps me better understand the mission."
Besides serving as needed in war zones, members of the National Guard respond to disasters and provide local relief. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Don was sent with a medical team to provide care to the affected population.
“We served thousands of patients a day. The world is focused on the damage following a disaster, so it's easy to forget that the people living there still have basic healthcare needs," he says, noting that beyond dealing with new injuries, people may be having babies, seeking help with hypertension, or a host of other everyday issues all while the entire healthcare infrastructure has been destroyed. “It's rewarding to serve a mission focused solely on providing support."
Another time Don received an opportunity to support others came in the form of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit, in which he served as chief doctor for a five-month rotation. In this role, Don oversaw the process for allowing injured Guard troops to recover closer to home rather than on an Army base.
“I learned a lot about medical readiness and applying disability standards," Don says. “Not only was I helping soldiers navigate their care and providing case management that guided them through their healing journey, but I can now apply the processes and lessons learned during that experience to what I do today."
Throughout his experiences serving in the Army National Guard, Don also advanced in his civilian medical career. Before joining Leidos, he guided medical technology development and digital transformation efforts at not-for-profit organizations while providing emergency medical care as a physician—something he still does.
“I'm glad that my career gave me the perfect mix of experience to match our portfolio at Leidos and that it allows me to combine my passion for health technologies and service," Don says.
Don's Continued Service in the National Guard and at Leidos
Today, Don isn't just chief medical officer at Leidos. He continues to serve as a colonel and emergency medical physician in the Army National Guard. As part of this service, he acts as the state surgeon, responsible for the medical readiness of South Dakota's roughly 3,400 Army National Guard troops, and chairperson for the medical advisory group that shares best practices across 50 U.S. states and four U.S. territories.
He was recently awarded membership to the Order of Military Medical Merit, an organization founded by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Health Services Command in 1982, for his distinguished service to Army medicine.
“It's fun and interesting to be on both sides of the equation as a service member and as part of Leidos teams that aim to improve medical services for military members," Don says, pointing out that not many people get the opportunity to be a designer and end user of their product.
“I get to do amazing things across the entire company. One hour I might be working on the Antarctic mission, then the next, it's the NIH mission or VA contracts, and the next helping with a DOD program. I get to see all the ways we're helping to solve the world's toughest challenges."
But what really keeps him at Leidos, he says, is the mission: “Every leader and every person at Leidos keeps the mission of our customer at heart. Whether it's the VA, DOD, Indian Health Service or HHS, we're asking ourselves how we, at Leidos, can support their values and goals. Every day is different, but the customer's mission is always at the forefront of our minds."
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