Pathologist Art Cohen adds visual confirmation for diagnosing diseases
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Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014

Pathologist Art Cohen adds visual confirmation for diagnosing diseases

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- COURTESY OF KATYA LEZIN
Art Cohen, a pathologist at Presbyterian Medical Center, says he loves “the aesthetic of looking through a microscope.”

Art Cohen, 61, says he always loved science and studying the human body.

As a child growing up on Long Island, N.Y., he would visit the local butcher and get calves brains and hearts “to study and dissect them,” he says.

Cohen moved to Charlotte in 1986 and is the chair of the Pathology Department at Presbyterian Medical Center, now part of Novant Health.

“My specialty is looking at slides of different organic tissues and looking for abnormalities,” he said. These abnormalities include cancer and non-cancerous conditions like Crohn’s disease, colitis, and polyps.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, Cohen completed a three-year medical program at Baylor College of Medicine in 1977 followed by an internal medicine internship at the University of Miami in 1978. It was there that he met his wife, Maria, a Cuban immigrant who was working as a social worker at the hospital.

He adopted her two children, then 6 and 9 (Annette, 43, and John, 40); the couple had a daughter of their own, Nandini, now 31.

Cohen chose to specialize in internal medicine because, as he puts it, “I love people.”

But his inner scientist missed looking through a microscope, so he moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to purse a pathology residency at the University of Michigan. More schooling followed, with a fellowship at Mayo Clinic in 1985-86 to specialize in surgical pathology.

He also spent a few years practicing in San Diego before coming to Charlotte. He and his family now live in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

His daily analysis of slides is something he thinks will never cease amazing him.

“Looking down the scope is the ultimate aesthetic,” he says, referring to the Nikon microscope that takes up most of the space on his desk and offers “the best optical quality and highest value image.”

Cohen knows that the pathologist’s role is largely behind the scenes, with many patients unaware of the integral role a pathologist plays in their care. “We identify and name the disease,” Cohen says, “so that the clinician can treat it.”

Cohen relishes the challenge of “being able to place a visual pattern into a scientific diagnosis” but, he says, “I never lose sight of the patient behind every slide.”

His sympathy for each patient’s diagnosis is heightened by his own diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in 1999. He has first-hand knowledge of how important it is to “help doctors make the best decision for each patient based on the most accurate information.”

He only occasionally interacts with patients, when they ask for a consult to review their slides themselves and have them explained, but “I get plenty of human interaction consulting with colleagues and clinicians and at conferences.”

Cohen says: “I think I’ll be doing this forever. I love helping doctors make the best decisions based on the most accurate information.”

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at bowserwoof@mindspring.com.

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