Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Kozai

The year was 1957. A blue Plymouth was parked at the top of a steep driveway, with a three-year-old boy behind the wheel. With gusto, that boy put the car into gear. The vehicle rolled backward, down the driveway, and towards the busy street below, swirling to make a perfect reverse turn. Mission accomplished. With a grin that measured from ear to ear, it was clear from the beginning that this boy was ready to go places, and nothing was going to get in his way.

Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Kozai, a long-time California resident of Encino, and recent resident of the Bay Area, passed away on February 12, 2021 at the age of 67.

After receiving his Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Jerry worked as a clinical pharmacist for several years; however, he felt that his true calling was tackling some of the more wide-reaching issues in healthcare. From this realization, he eagerly became passionate about the need to address the social and economic barriers that prevent so many from accessing quality care.

In 1989, Jerry’s cause for change began when he joined St. Francis Medical Center. After harnessing various roles as the Director of Pharmacy, Division Director of Clinical Support Services, Vice President of Professional Services, and Administrator/Chief Operating Officer, he grew into a great leader as the President/CEO and created monumental progress within the healthcare landscape. Prior, Jerry aided in Pharmacy and Clinical Support at St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, and has held the titles of President of Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the South Market of Catholic Healthcare West Southern California. In 2018, he brought the same vigor and compassionate approach to healthcare in Northern California in his new role for Sutter Health, as CEO of Alta Bates Medical Center in both the Berkeley and Oakland locations.

In addition to Jerry’s 40-years of experience in the healthcare industry, he served on multiple boards, including the Hospital Council of Southern California Board of Directors and the Community Health Council. He also constructed many programs and policies that help bring care to the marginalized populations of Los Angeles, and would often travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate the need for trauma centers in underserved areas. For his noteworthy efforts, The City of Lynwood later presented him with the Doctor Community Recognition Award.

Jerry was someone who lived with a deep appreciation for how precious each and every moment is, and as a man of purpose, he knew exactly how he wanted to use those occasions — he chose to spend his time pursuing the things that brought him the most joy, being with the people he loved, and offering support to everyone around him.

He lived a life that was in constant motion. At one instant he’d be barbecuing the perfect steak for friends and family, the next he’d be giving an impassioned speech at a medical conference. Then, after taking the time to be his entire family’s go-to person for intricate healthcare advice, you’d see him cheering like a madman at his daughters’ basketball games and gymnastics competitions. He’d then top everything off with his hearty laugh, infectious smile, and an explosive cannonball in the backyard pool.

That three-year-old boy in the blue Plymouth had the keys to the car and brought his world along for a joyride.

A loving husband, father, and friend, Jerry’s legacy leaves a lasting impact that will continue to live on with many. Leading by example, with his unshakable balance of optimism, he inspired others to find courage and positivity even through the greatest of adversity.

Jerry is survived and forever loved by his wife Kathy, children Kendall (Ross Psyhogios) and Kassidy Kozai, as well as his siblings, nieces, nephews, and other cherished relatives. He is preceded by the passing of his mother, Tomiyo Kozai, and mother-in-law, Rose Higashida, and followed by the passing of his father, Toshiaki Kozai, and father-in-law, James Higashida.

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