Founding the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities

Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD (1944 - 2009), Founder

The late Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD founded The Center for Aging, Health and Humanities (the center) in 1994 and served as director until his death. During his career at George Washington University, Dr. Cohen also held professorial positions in Health Care Sciences and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

His groundbreaking Creativity and Aging Study looked at the impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health and social functioning of older adults. His was the first controlled study to look at the impact of tapping into creative potential apart from treating problems to promote health with aging. He received numerous honors and awards, including the Kent Award from The Gerontological Society of America and First Place in the Blair Sadler International Healing Arts Competition from the Society for the Arts in Health Care. Dr. Cohen was also recognized in Best Doctors In America, Who's Who In America and Who's Who In The World. He was posthumously the first recipient of the Gene D. Cohen Research Award in Creativity and Aging.

Dr. Cohen provided leadership in geriatrics and gerontology, serving as President (1996-1997) of the Gerontological Society of America and Acting Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (1991-1993). Before coming to NIA, Dr. Cohen served as the first Chief of the Center on Aging of the National Institute of Mental Health, which was the first federal center on mental health and aging established in any country. In addition, he also coordinated the Department of Health and Human Services' planning and programs on Alzheimer's disease, through the efforts of the department's Council and Panel on Alzheimer's Disease. During his tenure with the federal government, he received the Public Health Service (PHS) Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor of the PHS.

Dr. Cohen also held positions including clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown, chairman of the Clinical Medicine Section of the Gerontological Society of America, and chairman of the Council on Aging of the American Psychiatric Association. He was the first editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and he was also the first editor-in-chief of International Psychogeriatrics (the official journal of the International Psychogeriatric Association). He was elected to the board of directors of The American Geriatrics Society and served as chairman of the Committee on Aging of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.  He was the principal investigator of a 25-year longitudinal study of ill older adults, with problems ranging from depression to dementia, living independently in the community, as well as having conducted extensive longitudinal research on both healthy older adults and those residing in nursing homes. 

Dr. Cohen was a graduate of Harvard College (with honors) and the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He earned a doctorate in gerontology from The Union Institute. He authored more than 150 publications in the field of aging, including several edited text books and his individually authored book, The Brain In Human Aging. He also developed three new intergenerational board games that have received recognition in national and international, juried game and art shows and attention on national TV.