Lawrence H. Cohn, MD, was born in San Francisco in 1937. He earned his BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley, with honors, his MD from the Stanford School of Medicine (Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society), and completed graduate training at Boston City Hospital, the National Heart Institute at the National Institutes of Health, the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University. He joined the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, now Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), in 1971 and was appointed chief of the division and director of the Cardiothoracic Residency Program in 1987. From 1971 to 2000, he directed the Cardiac Surgery Laboratory at Harvard Medical School (HMS). He was appointed professor of surgery at HMS in 1980, and in 2000, he was awarded the first endowed chair in cardiac surgery. Also in 2000, Dr. Cohn was appointed the first chair of the Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization. He served as chair of Physician and Scientist Fundraising at BWH and was a founding member of the Hippocrates Society. Most recently, he served as physician director of Medical Device Technology for Partners HealthCare System.
Dr. Cohn performed more than 11,500 cardiac surgical operations and was a world-renowned expert in the field of valve repair and replacement surgery. At BWH, he pioneered the process of minimally invasive heart valve surgery along with many other innovations, including New England's first heart transplant, bioprosthetic porcine valve, and computer-assisted robot surgery. Dr. Cohn's clinical and research interests spanned the entirety of adult cardiac surgery. He published more than 550 original scientific articles, 105 book chapters, and 12 books, including four editions of Cardiac Surgery in the Adult, the most referenced textbook in adult cardiac surgery today. An excellent public speaker, Dr. Cohn delivered more than 1,000 lectures worldwide. He held office for the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, the American College of Cardiology, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (president), the American College of Chest Physicians (president), the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education (president), and the National Library of Medicine (chairman of the board). He was a member of 20 other professional organizations, both locally and internationally. A prolific researcher and writer, Dr. Cohn became the editor of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and served on the editorial board of 23 other prestigious journals.
Dr. Cohn trained more than 150 residents and fellows at the BWH/Boston Children's Hospital Cardiothoracic Residency Program. He was extremely proud of the fact that the graduates of this program now occupy responsible positions at major medical centers worldwide, including approximately 30 surgeons who are division chiefs or department chairs. He continued to mentor these doctors long after their training was complete.
Dr. Cohn's accomplishments led to many awards in the medical field: an honorary master of medicine from Harvard in 1989, a doctor honoris causa from the University of Paris in 1992, and the Paul Dudley White Award in 2005, the highest honor given by the American Heart Association.
Always striving to advance medical practices, Dr. Cohn and his wife of 55 years, Roberta, established a global health forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This forum gathered speakers to discuss important health issues worldwide. Dr. Cohn and Roberta also endowed the Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Lectureship in Cardiovascular Surgery at Stanford Medical School in October 2015.
A true aficionado of the arts, Dr. Cohn proudly served as a board member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and established a gallery in the American Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts. He was a collector of rare cardiology and cardiac surgery books, and in 2008, he created the Lawrence H. Cohn, MD, Library at BWH for this history. Although San Francisco was his hometown, he grew to adore Boston and participated in many important Boston establishments. He was a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, a trustee of Massachusetts Financial Services, a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and on the corporation of the Winsor School. He served on the advisory board for Brandeis University's Heller School's Health Industry Forum, as well as the MIT Collaborative Initiatives Visionary Council. He could often be seen at Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium, rooting for his favorite sports teams. Dr. Cohn was an ultimate sportsman himself, excelling at tennis, golf, fishing, and skiing.
Dr. Cohn met Roberta when they were preteens, and they shared an incredible lifelong union and partnership. He had beaming pride for his whole family: Leslie and Stephen Bernstein, Jennifer Cohn and Jeff Couture, and his three beautiful grandchildren, Carly, Rachel, and Cameron.