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International Women's Day: Recognizing PAMS Member, Dr. Raquel Cohen

Maria Sanders | Published on 3/8/2021

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we wanted to recognize a PAMS members who was a pioneering physician.  Dr. Raquel Eidelman Cohen was a member of the first class of women to graduate from the Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Cohen passed away on October 21, 2020, at the age 98. 

Dr. Cohen was born in Lima in 1922. After completing a MS degree at San Marcos University, she came to the US to pursue a career in health sciences. After arriving in Boston, it was suggested by an acquaintance that she attend MIT to study nutrition. When she interviewed with the head of MIT for acceptance, she was told admission was closed, but he suggested she consider Harvard, as they had just started admitting women in their medical school. Upon completing her education, Dr. Cohen became a member of the first class of females to graduate from the Harvard Medical School in 1945.  In addition to her medical degree from Harvard, she also earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from MIT.  


Dr. Cohen was trained in Psychiatry and taught at Harvard for thirty years, where she became a distinguished international expert in the field of intervention and assistance for disaster survivors with mental health problems. In 1980, she moved to Miami to work with the Office of Aid to Cuban Refugees, as an advisor to the relocation programs for children without close relatives. Later, she served as Associate Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Director of the Children's Center at the Florida State Attorney's Office.  Throughout her academic and professional career, Dr. Cohen dedicated notable and productive efforts to the subject of mental health in natural disasters, where she collaborated with many specialized groups from various parts of the world, including Peru. She was awarded the American Psychiatric Association’s Simon Bolivar Award and the Vestermark Psychiatry Educator Award for her notable contributions to the fields of mental health and psychiatry. Dr. Cohen became an Honorary Member of the National Academy of Medicine in Perú.  


Dr. Cohen met her husband Lawrence Cohen, an attorney, on a blind date when she was studying at Harvard Medical School. She married him in 1947, and the couple went on to have three children.  She is survived by her children and several grandchildren.  She was a proud PAMS member and donor, and upon her passing, her family made donations to PAMS and its Medical Center in Chincha in her honor.  


Dr. Cohen led an extraordinary life, as she overcame the endemic challenges of sexism and misogyny in the medical field. She opened doors for women and minorities everywhere, by leading by example with her work at Harvard and beyond. Her breakthrough efforts and accomplishments in life make the adage “Vale un Perú” very fitting.  May she rest in peace!