November/December 2019
Volume 40, Issue 10

A Dental Educator Who Embodied the Principles of Vision, Innovation, and Achievement

American Dental Education Association

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 American Dental Education Association.

On June 29, 2018, the dental education community lost D. Walter Cohen, DDS, a champion for education who contributed greatly to the profession through his writings, volunteerism, and vision. The philanthropic arm of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), the ADEAGies Foundation®, acknowledged some of these remarkable contributions at its 2013 Gies Awards gala, honoring Dr. Cohen with the Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement-Dental Educator.

The Foundation maintains that dental education of the future calls upon the healthcare community's most innovative people to identify answers and solutions that address the many challenges and opportunities impacting the dental professions. The Gies Awards honor the efforts of individuals, institutions, and organizations that meaningfully advance oral health and dental education. They acknowledge those like Dr. Cohen who encourage new ideas, generate opportunities, and tackle issues facing the not-so-distant future of dental education.

Dr. Cohen had been a facilitator of new approaches from his early years as a dental educator when he founded the Department of Periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and served as the department's first chair. While there, Dr. Cohen introduced new concepts in teaching, revitalizing the dental school's education program. He introduced the preceptor model of education at Penn Dental Medicine, initiating new courses, recruiting faculty members, and establishing an innovative academic program that he described in the book, Educating the Dentist of the Future, The Pennsylvania Experiment.

In addition to that body of work, Dr. Cohen also authored and contributed to more than 125 articles and 22 textbooks over the course of his lifetime, including the seminal work, Periodontal Therapy, that he co-wrote with Dr. Henry M. Goldman in the 1960s.

Dr. Cohen was a supporter and founder of programs that would expand opportunities for many in dental education and beyond. In 1995, he cofounded the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program at Drexel University's College of Medicine, where he was also chancellor emeritus. Once again, acting as a catalyst for change, Dr. Cohen recognized that transforming the face of academic medicine would require a significant culture shift in the profession and continuous efforts to sustain the success of women leaders. This resulted in ELAM, a program that offers a 1-year fellowship in leadership training for women in academic medicine, dentistry, public health, and pharmacy. It includes coaching, networking, and mentoring opportunities for participants. Dr. Cohen's early leadership and strong continued support helped make ELAM the success it is today with more than 700 women graduates from the program.

In addition to the 2013 Gies Award, Dr. Cohen also received numerous other accolades acknowledging his contributions to dental education, including membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science (now known as the National Academy of Medicine), being the third American to earn honorary membership to the British Society of Periodontology, and receiving the Legion of Merit Award from the French government.

In 1997, Dr. Cohen received one of the highest honors from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem when the university dedicated the D. Water Cohen DDS Middle East Center for Dental Education in Israel. Dr. Cohen had contributed to the school's dental education program by arranging postdoctoral training for faculty in Jerusalem at various dental education institutions in the United States and Europe, as well as helping to recruit new faculty.

Throughout his career, Gies awardee Dr. Cohen personified the principles of vision, innovation and achievement. He leaves behind a legacy that spans the globe and will be felt for years to come throughout the dental education community and across the health professions.

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