In 1988, Dr. Scott Cohen followed in Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s footsteps, traveling to the Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Africa and spending three months delivering medical care to area residents in acute need.
According to the Bangor Daily News, as a Schweitzer Fellow, Cohen
saw firsthand how a lack of medical resources, which are readily available in the United States, can mean a death sentence.
He watched helplessly as children died and it changed him, his parents, Honey and Lester Cohen of Bangor, said during the lunch.
“He said to me, ‘I didn’t go to school for all those years to go home and count my money. I became a physician to help people,’” Lester Cohen recalled.
And that’s exactly what Cohen has done. Since returning from Lambaréné, he has dedicated his life to improving the health outcomes of people living in developing countries.
In these countries, access to formal health services is often limited, and medical care is largely delivered by lay practitioners. Cohen looked at this situation and saw an opportunity: why not provide those lay practitioners with training, and in doing so empower them to dramatically and sustainably improve the quality of care for women and children?
In 2002, Cohen seized that opportunity and founded Global Pediatric Alliance, which “seeks to promote grassroots empowerment and improve child and maternal health by providing educational, technical, and financial support for community-based health projects in Latin America.”
For his unyielding commitment to this mission, Cohen (a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, CA) has been named a “Pediatric Hero” by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The award — for which over 400 nominations were received — was given last month to Cohen and three other pediatricians “who exemplify what it means to be a hero to children.”
According to the AAP’s press release, a “Pediatric Hero” is
a pediatrician who provides exceptional care for patients and parents, speaks up for the underprivileged and underserved, and makes a commitment to children and to lifelong learning.
Cohen certainly fits the bill. As he told the AAP, “There is no greater privilege than to practice medicine as a pediatrician. It offers a chance to build close trusting relationships with patients and their families, which enables one to advocate in a meaningful way for children. Whether our work takes place domestically or abroad, pediatricians should honor and embrace this unique opportunity.”
Click here for a Marin Independent Journal feature on Cohen.