Alan Seymour Cohen, MD

Alan Seymour Cohen, MD, (BUSM’52) and former Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, died May 1 in Scottsdale, Ariz., at age 92.

Alan Cohen, MD
Alan Cohen, MD

Dr. Cohen was appointed Conrad Wesselhoeft Professor of Medicine in 1972 and Distinguished Professor of Rheumatology in 1993. He established the first Arthritis section at BUSM in 1960, which he led as it grew into the Arthritis Center, which was designated by the NIH as one of its initial Multipurpose Arthritis Centers in 1977. He trained more than 70 rheumatologists during this time. He also established and was director of the BUSM Amyloid Research and Treatment Program.  Dr. Cohen served as Chief of Medicine at Boston City Hospital and Director of the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory, Boston City Hospital, holding both positions from 1973-92.

He received an AB, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Harvard College, and his MD from BUSM ‘52 graduating valedictorian and president of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. He completed his internship and residency on the Harvard Medical Service of William B. Castle at Boston City Hospital and spent one year as Exchange Registrar on the unit of Sir Ian G.W. Hill at St. Andrews University School of Medicine in Dundee, Scotland. He was commissioned and served in the United States Public Health Service from 1953-55 and rose to the rank of Senior Assistant Surgeon. Dr. Cohen completed a fellowship in Rheumatology under Dr. Walter Bauer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Cohen contributed nationally to the study of rheumatology. He was lead author of the highly cited 1971 paper in Bulletin of the Rheumatic Diseases that classified the diagnostic criteria for Systemic Lupus Erythematosis. He served as a past president of the American College of Rheumatology 1978-79, a Master of the American College of Rheumatology 1992, and received that organization’s highest honor, the Gold Medal award in 1994.

Dr. Cohen was recognized internationally as a pioneering investigator in the scientific and clinical study of amyloidosis.  He published a seminal paper in Nature in 1959 describing the structure of amyloid using electron microscopy. His work included description of the biochemical nature of this disease, development of an animal model, immunologic and molecular genetic studies of it.

He is the author of nearly 700 publications and he is the editor or co-editor of 12 books. In 1993, he was the founding editor and first Editor-in-Chief of Amyloid: The International Journal of Experimental and Clinical Investigation. He served on advisory committees of the NIH and belonged to numerous professional societies.  Dr. Cohen received the BUSM Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1975 and was the inaugural recipient of the Commissioner’s Distinguished Physician Award of Boston City Hospital in 1991. He has received honorary memberships to the Italian (1977), Spanish (1978), Brazilian (1978), Finnish (1980), and Irish (first elected honorary member, 1981) Rheumatism Societies, and the Jan Van Breeman Gold Medal of the Dutch Rheumatism Society (1990).

He is survived by his wife of 64 years Joan; three sons Evan and wife Anne, Andrew, and Robert and wife Cynthia; and five grandchildren Sarah, Laura, Dana, James and Matthew.