Committee Connection

Meet Susan Lerner Cohn, MD

20 Dec 2012 7:42 PM

Director of Clinical Sciences, Section of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology, at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago; Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago; and 2012-2015 ASCO Board of Directors member

  Dr. Cohn hiking at Yosemite National Park.
AC: What led you to oncology?

Dr. Cohn: When I was a pediatric resident, I took care of a beautiful little girl who was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma. She was smart, funny, and beautiful. Unfortunately, she died from her disease within one year of her initial diagnosis. After she died, I decided to pursue training in pediatric oncology so that I could help develop better treatment for children with cancer and improve their survival.

AC: What’s the last book you read?

Dr. Cohn: I am currently reading Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. I also loved reading The Emperor of All Maladies, by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, and learning about many of the physicians I have worked with and admire, including pediatricians Dr. Audrey Evans and Dr. Dan D’Angio, and my University of Chicago colleague Dr. Janet Rowely.

AC: What’s your favorite website?

Dr. Cohn: I enjoy reading the New York Times website and spend a fair amount of time on Google.

AC: Who is the person you most admire?

Dr. Cohn: I most admire my mother, who worked “outside the home” before it was common. My mother began her career as a kindergarten teacher and then became a reading specialist. She then went back to school and received a PhD in Education when I was in grade school. I have vivid memories of her sitting at the typewriter at night with “white-out” paper, preparing her thesis. She has written numerous papers and several textbooks that are still used in colleges today. Each textbook is dedicated to my father and her children. In addition to her pioneering work in the field of learning disabilities, she is also a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother.

AC: What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?

Dr. Cohn: I would have become a teacher.

AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?

Dr. Cohn: I enjoy running and hiking. However, my runs are limited to six to 10 miles, and my hikes are limited to day hikes. I also confess that after the hikes, I sleep in a nice hotel bed. I am not a camper.

AC: Do you have a personal motto?

Dr. Cohn: “If it were easy, anyone could do it.”

AC: What is your fondest memory?

Dr. Cohn: Giving birth to my two children.

AC: What would you say to someone thinking about entering the field of oncology?

Dr. Cohn: This is a wonderful time to consider a career in oncology, particularly pediatric oncology. We currently cure approximately 80% of children with cancer, and there are new, more effective, and less toxic treatments being developed daily. New research has led to the identification of druggable targets and more precise prognosticators. I am inspired every day by the families and children I have the privilege to care for. This experience keeps me balanced and puts life in the proper perspective.

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