School of Medicine and Dentistry Professor Emeritus Jules Cohen Dies

Oct. 9, 2015
Remembered as a "Pillar" of the School

Jules Cohen, M.D., professor emeritus of Medicine (Cardiology), whose career as a physician, educator, researcher, and administrator at the School of Medicine and Dentistry spanned more than 60 years, passed away Oct. 8 at the age of 84.

In addition to his numerous teaching and research contributions as a longtime member of the Cardiology faculty, Dr. Cohen served as the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s senior associate dean for medical education from 1982 to 1997. He earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Rochester and completed his residency and postdoctoral training at Strong Memorial Hospital.

“He was a doctor’s doctor, an attentive educator, and a true citizen of the School of Medicine and Dentistry,” said former University of Rochester Medical Center CEO C. McCollister “Mac” Evarts, M.D., who struck up a lifelong friendship with Cohen when they were both first-year students in 1953. “He was an incredibly bright guy, with a great sense of humor, who interacted with everyone throughout his career with the utmost integrity and humility. He was the embodiment of the medical school’s mission, a pillar of the school.”

“A healthy institution, like a healthy organism, is one that can respond and adapt successfully to challenges, while preserving its traditional strengths.” - Jules Cohen, M.D. (1931-2015)

As a student, Dr. Cohen studied under the school’s founding professors and fathers of the biopsychosocial model of medicine—psychiatrists John Romano, M.D. (1908-1994) and George Engel, M.D. (1913-1999), as well as physiologist Wallace Fenn (1893-1971) and cardiologist Paul Yu, M.D. (1915-1991). Their influence had a profound impact on how he would chart his own course as a clinician, a teacher, and scientist, and later, as an administrator of the school.

“What made them good teachers was their capacity for clarity, their capacity for making you think, and their making it quite clear that they were interested in you personally,” Dr. Cohen said in a 2012 interview. “And without exception, we know those traits of collegiality and personal attention are still the most important traits to students today.”

In an era of rapid technological and scientific advancements, Dr. Cohen’s dedication to the “human” dimension of medicine was a constant thread though his clinical care of patients with heart problems, his patient-centered research into heart muscle abnormalities, and his NIH-funded collaborative studies. He worked closely with Marshall Lichtman, M.D., professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology), studying oxygen transport in patients with congestive heart failure.

“He was very much a humanist, a very smart and gentle person, always relating everything back to how it would impact the care of the patient,” said Lichtman, a close friend for more than 50 years and former dean of the medical school. “Above all, he was devoted to the medical school and to the core principles it was founded on. He loved teaching and interacting with students, residents, and fellows, and later, he embraced his administrative role, because it allowed him to develop curriculum and have an even larger impact.”

Dr. Cohen taught his first class of students at the School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1963, and over the next 10 years rose from an instructor to full professorship. As a faculty member, he played a key role in creating a robust research facility, securing NIH funding to expand his laboratory research program.

After 13 years on the Cardiology faculty, he was named physician-in-chief at Rochester General Hospital, returning in 1982 to take on the role of the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s senior associate dean for medical education. During the next 15 years, he led a major revision of the medical school’s curriculum. His most recent work focused on medical education and public policy, and included a four-year post as co-director of the Health Professions Public Service Program.

Dr. Cohen continued his consultant work well into his later years, and also co-authored three historical books: Paul Yu Remembered, John Romano and George Engel: Their Lives and Work, and 75 Years of Achievement 1925-2000, The University of Rochester Medical Center.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the UR magna cum laude in 1953, and earned his medical degree with honors from the School of Medicine and Dentistry four years later. After completing an internship at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, he returned to Strong Memorial Hospital for residency and one year of postdoctoral training in hematology. He spent two years as a research associate at the NIH before completing his cardiology training at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London.

A member of the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Alumni Council since 2011, he is the recipient of several awards including the Gold Medal Award from the UR Medical Alumni Association, the Marvin J. Hoffman Award for Faculty Mentoring, and the Albert David Kaiser Medal, which is the Rochester Academy of Medicine’s highest honor.

Dr. Cohen is survived by his wife Doris, two sons, Stephen and David, a daughter Sharon, their spouses, and eight grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held Friday, Oct. 9 at Temple B’rith Kodesh at 1:30 p.m. A memorial service in the medical school is being planned.