A Relentless Zeal to Advance Oral Health
To honor the life and passing of D. Walter Cohen, DDS, the Founding Editor of Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, the journal is featuring a series of tributes from various leading healthcare organizations with which he had a significant relationship. This installment is from the Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund, Inc.
When we received the news that our esteemed colleague, friend, and Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund, Inc. Board Member, Dr. D. Walter Cohen passed away last June, the sadness was overwhelming. I personally had the privilege and honor of knowing Walter for 25 years.
Renowned for his accomplishments, he was equally legendary as a person. We knew him as an educator, innovator, author, international statesman, and leader. He was impressively generous, forward thinking, and a mentor to all.
His extensive biography cannot completely capture the essence of a man so extraordinarily dedicated to ensuring the advancement of his profession so that it may serve all in need of treatment. This was similar to the legacy of our organization's namesake, Dr. Edward B. Shils, another outstanding educator and industry leader.
Dr. Shils, who served as the Executive Director of the Dental Manufacturers of America and the Dental Dealers of America for almost 50 years, earned six degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, becoming a full professor and chair of the management department at Penn's Wharton School. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Wharton Entrepreneurial Center, the first institute dedicated to the academic study of entrepreneurialism.
Because of Dr. Shils' stewardship, scholarship, and encouragement of innovative business practices in dentistry, in 2002 the Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund was established by the dental industry to recognize those whose contributions reflect a similarly enduring commitment to innovation in the field of oral health. At its inception, the driving force of the Shils Fund was Stanley M. Bergman, Chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., and he was quickly joined by Dr. Cohen, who became a Shils Fund Board Member and immediately made a long-lasting impact. Following Stan's lead, Walter also became a committed Founding Funder, critical to the launch of this important initiative. These extraordinary individuals dedicated their priceless time, energy, and a combined $200,000 to ensure the Shils Fund became a successful reality.
Dr. Cohen also advised us on ways to recognize and develop diverse healthcare leadership and connect it to innovative, entrepreneurial approaches advancing oral health and its link to overall health, embodying Ed's vision to inspire, connect, build, and drive innovative and entrepreneurial systems for social good.
Walter became co-chair of the Shils Fund Awards Committee and championed our annual event as an opportunity to celebrate exceptional professionals in the public oral health arena. The awards identify innovators who embody the principles of leadership and entrepreneurship that Dr. Shils advocated during his lifetime.
Dr. Cohen was the first-ever recipient of our Shils-Meskin Award for outstanding leadership, character, and activism. He was honored for his accomplishments as a lifelong contributor to the advancement of dental health, which included his creation of the Bridges to Peace Program, a partnership between the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine and Al-Quds University Dental School in Jerusalem. The program strives to foster peace among members of the dental community in the Middle East.
Due to his illustrious academic background, which included serving as dean of Penn Dental School, Walter was instrumental in working with the School and The Bergman Family Foundation in the creation and opening of a Shils Fund Dental Clinic at the School in memory of Dr. Shils. This beautiful new clinic has become a strong and vital foundation in supporting dental projects.
Dr. Cohen helped create the Shils Fund's inaugural Cohen-Volpe Award, which is given to those who have made outstanding contributions to dentistry or its allied sciences. The award is co-named for Walter and another distinguished fellow clinician, researcher, educator, Shils Fund Board Member, and friend, Dr. Anthony Volpe.
Walter led our philanthropic effort by example, both as a donor and ensuring we enacted best practice, with wide recognition of local, regional, national, and international awardees, representing all avenues of diversity. He offered the added value of providing others with mentorship and networking opportunities.
Walter's decades-long friendships with Drs. Allen Finkelstein and Jack Dillenberg, both Shils Fund Board Members, and others, helped create a tight family of, in his own words, "dental do-gooders" within the dental profession acting together as a united, dedicated catalyst for change.
It is largely because of Walter's immeasurable contributions that the Shils Fund is well positioned for the future. As we enter our 17th year, the Shils Fund is taking a new direction, an extension of Walter's ongoing support and recognition of innovative, entrepreneurial, social-responsibility programs, organizations, and individuals. Our goal is to turn this philanthropy into opportunity for the next generation of dental entrepreneurs. To accomplish this, we will continue to fulfill Walter's tremendous model of generosity and social good and his relentless pursuit of innovation and change, striving, as he did, to learn and do more.
- Steve W. Kess, President, Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund, Inc.