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D. Walter Cohen: An iconic icon

Dr David Hoexter, left, and Dr D. Walter Cohen at a recent charity function.
Dr David L. Hoexter, USA

Dr David L. Hoexter, USA

Thu. 11 March 2010


Each generation has a different concept or image of an icon of contemporary culture. D. Walter Cohen is such an icon of dentistry. He is a pinnacle of energy and accomplishment with a glitter of idealism. Even today, in his 80s, he will play tennis early in the morning before he practices periodontics at his office.

He understands the “gestalt” of life. For example, he talks about Dr. Harry Sicher, author of Bone on Bones: Fundamental of bone biology, as not only being a great orthopedist but someone who loves music and catching butterflies as well.

Cohen makes the time and effort to enhance the lives of others and to encourage peace through education and understanding. Sharing his vision through unselfish seeds of giving, Cohen fertilizes the seeds with education and an interchange of knowledge.

With his nurturing, the seedlings grow into trees with strong roots and wide branches with spreading leaves. It is underneath the shade of these leaves that people learn and share knowledge.

He even manages to open eyes and ears that have been waxed shut through years of prejudice and ignorance.

In 1997, Cohen established the D. Walter Cohen Middle East Center for Dental Education in Israel at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Today, it continues to set the tone of learning for citizens all over the world.

It also allows for the exchange of dental students at Hebrew University with the students at the Al-Quds School of Dentistry in Jerusalem. This exchange illustrates true sharing between Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem by stressing knowledge, human compassion and understanding.

Cohen is a passionate man who has given the world a real opportunity to enhance peace efforts and change humanity through education and understanding.

Cohen is also helping to make strides in lowering the number of preterm, low birth weight babies. He is guiding the treatment and cure of periodontal disease during pregnancy, especially among pregnant teenagers.

This may be a major step in order to lower the number of preterm, low birth weight babies. A favorite phrase of his is that “we have to keep trying so we can break through the glass ceiling.”

Cohen helped establish the University of Pennsylvania’s first department of periodontics and served as its first chair. Growing from professor to dean, Cohen advanced new concepts and raised educational standards.

During his career he has found the time to write and publish 22 books and hundreds of articles. Despite his busy schedule, he always finds the time to participate as dean emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine.

Among his many honors, he has received the Legion of Merit from France, was named president of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, chair of the Pennsylvania Diabetes Academy, president of the National Museum of American Jewish History and chancellor emeritus of Drexel University College of Medicine.

These are just a few examples of the awards and leadership recognition that he has received.

When I asked Cohen what he considered his greatest achievement to date, he unhesitatingly replied “my family.” His daughters would probably agree.

Proudly, he related the wonderful family home in which he was raised, and that his father was the first periodontist in Philadelphia. As he related it, the encouragement and love that his family gave to him made it easy for him to give so much back.

If the question were posed to me as to who and what is an icon in dentistry, I would swiftly reply, “D. Walter Cohen.”

One thought on “D. Walter Cohen: An iconic icon

  1. Rich callari says:

    He helped me for 28 years a great person will miss him !!

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