Biking Doctor David Cohn Begins New Ride as Medical Affairs Director at The James

David Cohn

The plate of David Cohn, MD, just got a little bit fuller.

He recently took over as the director of medical affairs at the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Along with his new position, Dr. Cohn will continue as the director of Gynecologic Oncology of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), and this skilled surgeon will continue to treat patients and collaborate with colleagues on cutting-edge research. Cohn and his long-time mentor, Paul Goodfellow, PhD, lead the Ohio Prevention and Treatment of Endometrial Cancer (OPTEC) initiative. This statewide OSUCCC – James program is funded by Pelotonia and will provide genetic testing to approximately 700 Ohio women who’ve been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, as well as their family members. The goal is to improve the standard of care and save lives.

“I’ve always been interested in leadership and initiatives that look for ways of improving the quality of care, and this is an extension of that,” Cohn said of his new role.

He replaces William B. Farrar, MD, who is now serving as the interim chief executive officer of The James. “Dr. Farrar was in this position for almost 30 years and [did] a great job,” Cohn said. “Having him as a resource will make the transition so much easier.”

It’s not difficult to identify Cohn’s motivation to take on this new challenge.

“The greatest joy for me is taking care of patients, and everything else I’ve done—the research and the leadership roles—comes from that,” he said. “The goal is to create a cancer-free world. That’s what drives me.”

In his new position, Cohn will have an enhanced role in helping physicians help their patients. The role of the director of Medical Affairs, he said, is to serve as an advocate and voice for the OSUCCC – James physicians and to help them “continue the excellent care they provide their patients and to find new and innovative ways to be even better and more cost effective, and to utilize new discoveries.”

His plan is to meet and talk with as many OSUCCC – James physicians as possible over the next several months to “understand the challenges and opportunities they face.”

Cohn came to the OSUCCC – James in 2001 and was named director of Gynecologic Oncology in 2011.

He learned many lessons over the years from his colleagues.

“I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from so many great mentors,” he said, adding that he’s now in a position to mentor some of his younger colleagues.

What advice will he impart? It will start with how to balance their professional and personal lives.

“When you start your job, after your residency or fellowship, all you know how to do is work 80 hours a week,” Cohn said. “So, trying to find that sweet spot between your professional and personal lives is difficult. It took me several years to figure it out.”

Through Pelotonia, Cohn has become an avid cyclist. A highlight of his personal life this year will be his 10th Pelotonia ride, as well as a trip to France to climb a few mountains in the Alps on his bike.

Pelotonia—and cycling—has become a family affair for the active and athletic Cohns. The doctor’s wife, Karen, an attorney, has participated in several Pelotonia rides. Their daughter, Julia, a freshman at the University of Michigan (and a standout high school distance runner) rode the 100-mile Pelotonia route with her father in 2017, “and she’ll do it again this year,” Cohn said. The couple’s son, Matthew, is in high school and competes in football, swimming and lacrosse.

The same drive and passion that is taking Cohn into the Alps is serving him well as he takes on his new challenge as The James’ director of medical affairs. “The keys to this type of career is to love what you do,” he said.