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Statement of Robert Uzzo, MD, MBA, FACS, Fox Chase Cancer Center President & CEO, on the death of Brian Kozera

August 17, 2022

Brian Kozera lived his life according to a very simple, yet powerful mantra: Persevere, prevail.  A dear member of our Fox Chase Cancer Center community, Brian was a cancer survivor (or cancer thriver, as he would say), fundraiser, and friend who inspired us with his resolve, his passionate spirit, and his selfless dedication to others.Brian Kozera lived his life according to a very simple, yet powerful mantra: Persevere, prevail. A dear member of our Fox Chase Cancer Center community, Brian was a cancer survivor (or cancer thriver, as he would say), fundraiser, and friend who inspired us with his resolve, his passionate spirit, and his selfless dedication to others.

PHILADELPHIA (August 17, 2022)—Brian Kozera lived his life according to a very simple, yet powerful mantra: Persevere, prevail. A dear member of our Fox Chase Cancer Center community, Brian was a cancer survivor (or cancer thriver, as he would say), fundraiser, and friend who inspired us with his resolve, his passionate spirit, and his selfless dedication to others. It is with deep sadness that I share news of his unexpected passing on August 13 in a biking accident. Brian was 44.

Brian first came to us in 2014 after learning he had lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin’s lymphoma—one of the rarest forms of lymphatic cancers. His diagnosis was even more stunning because the cancer, considered stage IV, had already spread to his abdomen, hip, chest, and spine. At the time, he was only 36 years old. He and his wife, Kristin, had just welcomed their third daughter into their family.

A police officer by profession, a member of the National Ski Patrol, and an elite athlete who competed in 12-hour adventure races and triathlons (including the Ironman), Brian was no stranger to a challenge. His father, the late Richard “Dick” Kozera, MD, FACP (who also passed on August 13 in 2014), then the executive associate dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, referred Brian to his colleague, Richard Fisher, MD, here at Fox Chase.

Brian set out to prevail over cancer, undergoing 16 rounds of chemotherapy, additional inpatient infusions, and a grueling bone marrow transplant. But treatment wasn’t his only focus: all the while, he continued his endurance training, convinced that he would again compete in the races he loved to take on. During his time in our inpatient BMT Unit, he even set up a stationary bike in his room to prepare for the milestones ahead. He would later donate a medal he earned in competition—now displayed, along with his photo, on the BMT Unit to offer hope to fellow patients.

With the care of his entire Fox Chase team, the support of his family, and his trademark optimism, Brian’s cancer went into remission—a truly remarkable outcome. In the years since, he became a USA Triathlon-certified coach; completed five more full-distance Ironman competitions, including races in Austria, Lake Placid, Chattanooga, and Cozumel; earned a silver All World Athlete award; and believed he hadn’t reached his full potential… yet.

On Saturday, he had been training for his biggest race to date—the Ironman World Championship, to be held this fall in Kona, Hawaii. A dream opportunity, Brian was one of just a few top athletes chosen to represent Team in Training of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and would wear the Fox Chase logo on his jersey. As part of this effort, he was raising $100,000 for cancer research.

The Kozeras have long engaged in supporting others through their love of sports. Kristin often competed with Brian in different races, and together, their family has biked hundreds of miles to raise funds not only for Fox Chase and LLS, but also for the International Foundation for CDKL5 Research, where Kristin serves as a board member. Their involvement came after their youngest daughter was diagnosed in 2014 with CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder, a rare genetic disorder that causes seizures and significant developmental delay requiring lifelong care.

In 2019, Brian shared his inspiring story as the keynote speaker at our Laurel Society event, held to thank Fox Chase donors and friends. The year before, he helped support In Vino Vita, our signature benefit and wine auction, by promoting our special pledge to raise funds for innovative technologies.

Brian cared very much about his community. In his work as a corporal and 16-year veteran of the Norristown Police Department, he mentored young students as a school resource officer. He served as an adjunct faculty instructor in the law enforcement academies of Temple University and Montgomery County Community College. He also coached young athletes interested in endurance racing at the Greater Philadelphia YMCA.

In addition to his wife, Brian is survived by his daughters Paige, Josie, and Avery along with countless other family members, friends, colleagues, and admirers.

Brian was an advocate for those facing cancer, but more broadly, for anyone facing adversity. He believed in something he called “the power of yet.” Instead of thinking “I can’t,” he encouraged others to have the courage to add “yet.” With each challenge he encountered in his own life, he showed us what this means.

In tribute to Brian, let us honor his example by pursuing our passions and offering our best—believing in our potential and persevering through our hardships to achieve all that can be… someday yet.

If you would like to make a contribution to Fox Chase Cancer Center in memory of Brian, you may do so here.

Brian’s funeral arrangements are as follows:

Boyd Horrox Givnish Funeral Home
200 W. Germantown Pike, Norristown Pa.
Visitation: Monday, August 22, 5 p.m. and Tuesday, August 23, 9 a.m.
Service: Tuesday, August 23, 11 a.m. at the funeral home

Funeral procession and burial to follow: Calvary Cemetery, 235 E. Matsonford Rd., Conshohocken, Pa.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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