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October 20, 2017

Meet the Scholar: Yehuda Cohen, M.D.
By Michelle Romanick

Dr. Yehuda Cohen joined the Clinical Scholars Program at the Rockefeller University in 2015.  Dr. Cohen received his M.D. from Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and he joined Dr. Michel C. Nussenzweig’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology as an Instructor in Clinical Investigation after completing his residency in internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and his fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Dr. Cohen’s interest in clinical and translational research began when he was an undergraduate at Columbia University, where he spent 2 years working in a laboratory studying the response to carcinogenesis in genetically obese and fatless mice.  The study found that obese mice developed malignancies at a rate similar to controls, while fatless mice were more susceptible to carcinogenesis than both obese and control mice. This experience led to a co-first author publication in Cancer Research and inspired Dr. Cohen to pursue a career as a physician-scientist.
Dr. Cohen developed an interest in HIV through his training in infectious disease and he was referred by one of his mentors, Dr. Lindsey Baden, to Dr. Marina Caskey, Associate Professor of Clinical Investigation at Rockefeller University and graduate of the Clinical Scholars Program and Dr. Sarah Schlesinger, Program Director for the Clinical Scholars Program, as a Clinical Scholar candidate in the Nussenzweig Laboratory.  Dr. Cohen thought the program was a great opportunity to further his goals as a physician-scientist.  His expectation upon joining the program was to gain both laboratory and clinical research skills to enable him to conduct clinical trials and at the same time perform related bench research in the lab. Dr. Cohen states, “I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are experts in both of these areas who have been able to teach me a great deal.”  Dr. Cohen has focused his research on better understanding the hidden “reservoir” of HIV in patients, since eradicating this source of virus is key to curing the disease.  He has made major advances in improving the assay used to detect the viruses in the reservoir and has shown that the reservoir contains a greater diversity of viral subtypes than previously appreciated.
When asked about his experience as a Clinical Scholar, Dr. Cohen replied, “I have found that it is always a good idea to be open to learning new skills in order to broaden your horizons and not put all of your efforts into a single project.  You never know which experiment is going to fail or which clinical trial will be delayed.  One of the most unique and educational aspects of the program has been lunch with the Seminar in Clinical Research speakers. These have included chief scientific officers of biotechology companies and renown clinician researchers who had fascinating anecdotes about their research and career paths and thought-provoking advice to share. The Clinical Scholars Program provides a unique opportunity to focus on science— whether your interest is in the clinic or at the bench, you have the opportunity to engage in both among world-class scientists.”
Dr. Cohen is currently applying for an NIH Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23).  His expectation is to use the award to continue his research at Rockefeller University with a future plan to transitition to a faculty position at one of New York City’s academic medical centers.