A Tribute to our great friend and colleague
On a cool Sunday morning in March 2014, Dr. Paul Cohen, his wife Stefanie, and their three children, 11-year-old twins Elianah and Emma and 10-year-old Nathan, were enjoying their spring vacation ski trip in Snowmass, Colorado. As the family prepared for a run down the mountain, the three children went first, followed by Stefanie. Paul usually went last as he was a faster, more experienced skier, and he would usually finish the run first. But this time, the family waited and waited for Paul to come down the mountain. He never came. Instead, a member of the ski patrol met the family and notified them of Paul’s accident. Even though Paul was wearing a helmet, the impact left him in a coma with a severe traumatic brain injury. He was air-lifted to a hospital in Denver. His friend and colleague, Dr. Christopher McPherson, flew to Denver to be with Paul and his family. But Paul would never regain consciousness, and on March 28, he passed away. He was just 45 years old.
Dr. Paul Cohen was an incredible young man. Born in Baltimore, Paul attended the University of Maryland, graduating magna cum laude with a BS degree in psychology. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1996 and then came to Cincinnati for his neurosurgery residency at the UC/Mayfield program.
As a resident, Paul was always energetic and happy. Nicknamed “Sparky” by his fellow residents, Paul enjoyed the latest advancements in all types of technology. He helped others learn how to give digital presentations for grand rounds lectures and was among the first to have an iPhone, an iPad, and more. He was a fun-loving colleague who was well respected by his peers and faculty alike. A neurosurgery residency is challenging, and Paul grew immensely during those six years at UC.
As he noted in his graduation speech in June 2002, his wife, Dr. Stefanie Stevenson, played a big role in his success: “And to Stef, my wife. The love of my life. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Upon graduation, Dr. Cohen completed a fellowship at Advanced NeuroSpine Specialists in Norfolk, Virginia. He then started his neurosurgery practice at the Hampton Roads Neurosurgery and Spine Center in Norfolk. Two years later, he was recruited back to Cincinnati, where he joined the Mayfield Clinic and the UC Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Stevenson also built her practice in Cincinnati and would later become Adjunct Assistant Professor and Clinical Director of Integrative Medicine at UC Health.
During his nine years at the Mayfield Clinic, Dr. Cohen was a member of the Board of Directors and served on several leadership committees within Mayfield and the UC Department of Neurosurgery. He also served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery. In addition, he served on the Board of Managers of The Christ Hospital Spine Surgery Center.
Dr. Cohen was highly regarded by his peers. He was recognized as one of Cincinnati’s Top Doctors in 2011, 2013, and 2014.
Dr. Cohen’s approach to patient care was an inspiration. He viewed himself as an educator as much as a clinician, and his patients loved him for it. His patient satisfaction scores were among the highest at Mayfield. He would not hesitate to get advice from one of his neurosurgical colleagues if a case warranted, and he was never satisfied until his patients were.
One such patient, Brad, was so pleased with his result that he contacted Mayfield and offered to appear on a billboard. Brad’s enthusiasm was so powerful that Mayfield ultimately used his story on Mayfield’s website and in its advertising. “I couldn’t be happier with the decision to go with Mayfield,” recalled Brad. “Dr. Paul Cohen gave me my life back. I was always athletic, but I can’t recall ever feeling this strong and great about my body. I made a great choice with Mayfield.”
Outside of work, Paul enjoyed skiing, billiards, and soccer. However, nothing was as important to Paul as his wife, Stefanie, and their three beautiful children.
A Mayfield associate who worked with Dr. Cohen for years stated, “I know that his family meant the world to him. Nothing would come between him and his kids’ school events.”
Even at his passing, Paul continues to give back. He donated his organs so that others can live more comfortably, breathe more easily, and perhaps see the world more clearly—a world that is a much better place for having had Sparky in it.
We will miss you, Dr. Cohen. Rest in peace.
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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Paul attended the University of Maryland, graduating magna cum laude with a BS degree in Psychology. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1996 and then came to Cincinnati for his neurosurgery residency at the UC/Mayfield program. After graduating from our residency program in 2002, Paul completed a spine neurosurgery fellowship at Advanced NeuroSpine Specialists in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2003.
Upon graduation, he stayed in Norfolk and started his neurosurgery practice at the Hampton Roads Neurosurgery and Spine Center.
Recruited back to Cincinnati two years later, he joined the Mayfield Clinic and became Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery in the UC Department of Neurosurgery. He is board-certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and has professional memberships in the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati, and the Frank H. Mayfield Society.
While Paul enjoyed all aspects of his profession, he specialized in minimally invasive spine surgery. He operated primarily at Bethesda North Hospital and The Christ Hospital Spine Surgery Center, but had privileges at Good Samaritan and Mercy Hospital Fairfield as well. At Bethesda North, he served as Assistant Chair of the Section of Neurosurgery and also served on the Surgery Advisory Committee there. Paul was a member of the Mayfield Clinic Board of Directors and also served on Mayfield’s Business Operations, Outcomes, and Marketing Committees. In addition, he served on The Christ Hospital Spine Surgery Center Board of Managers, the Resident Advisory Committee at UC, and the Winter Clinics National Neuroscience Symposium Planning Committee.
Paul L. Cohen, MD
Mayfield has established an education fund through US Bank for the future education plans of the three Cohen children. You can make a donation at any US Bank branch, or you can send your check, made payable to the Paul L. Cohen Children's Education Fund, to:
Paul L. Cohen Children's Education Fund
c/o Mayfield Clinic
3825 Edwards Road - Suite 300
Cincinnati, Ohio 45209
Paul's Graduation Speech
To Stef my wife and the love of my life
I couldn’t have done it without ya
This last year was tough and a little bit rough
But at least my chief year wasn’t
Kokkino was great and never once late
In telling me I was a slacker
Then there was Link who coined Sparky I think
But seeing Bachman was clearly a factor
Now for all of the Staff who made us laugh
All had their own contribution
Yeh with his “GEE” really trained me
“way too much bleeding I see”
Tobler or Tobs he’s been called many things
Days in the OR with all the CSF that he brings
Dr. Shahbabian: [*!&%!] & G. – Damn, all the foreigners I see
I really can’t say anymore he’s always helped me.
And Mario too “I show it to you,
Let us just go round together”….
With Dunsker you grow and from above and below
A patty passed with precision
And then Dr. Tew a finger to you
I was “perfect” with every decision.
For Harry and Jeff from me and Stef
Your friendship was like no other
Lab life was key and crucial to me
But really grossed out my mother
Now Keiper, Larson, Kokkino and Gruber
Kager, Ryu, Ionas, Weiner and Bachman
Morgan, Bohinski, Darakchiev and Maher
Walker, Petr, McPherson, and Sherman
Dagnew, Ling, Yeh, Aziz and Sebastien
Chicoine, Andaluz, Walter and Bovis
The Brill Cream Express and all of the rest that made the last six feel like seven
Joanie and Laura, Mary and Penny
each had their own contribution
The program is growing and jobs might be going
Coming with me’s the solution
Now I say to you all I may not be tall
But it’s clear from seeing our leaders
Prediction of greatness is not brains or height;
it’s having distinguishing features
So in closing I say just 21 days
To repay me for all that I’ve done
I’m sure you know me well to know
it was really all just done in fun
And to Stef my wife the love of my life
I couldn’t have done it without you. -- Paul Cohen, MD