Dr Raquel Eidelman Cohen, the last surviving member of Harvard Medical School’s first batch of women graduates, passed away at the age of 98 on October 21 due to complications caused by a fall. Dr Cohen was one of the first twelve women to get admission to the prestigious institution back in 1945. She is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

What You Should Know: 

  • Dr Raquel Eidelman Cohen, the last surviving member of Harvard Medical School’s first batch of women graduates, passed away at the age of 98 on October 21. 
  • Dr Cohen was one of the first twelve women admitted to the prestigious institution back in 1945.
  • She held many leadership positions during her illustrious medical career. 
  • She overcame sexism and misogyny in the medical field to open doors for women and minorities at every level.

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Dr Raquel Eidelman Cohen – Last Of Harvard Medical School’s First Women Graduates

As per The Boston Globe, Dr Cohen was born in Lima, Peru in 1922. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and ran a shop selling home goods. As per her own admission, her childhood was full of learning, reading, and thinking. Notably, Dr Cohen idolised Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, during her growing up years.

After graduating from the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Dr Cohen’s passion to study nutrition and alleviate the health crisis in her homeland led her to Boston. A top administrator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology failed to accommodate her and directed her to Harvard. At Harvard School of Public Health, Dr Cohen pursued a master’s degree. Consequently, her professors prompted her to pursue a medical degree at Harvard Medical School. In 1945 she received an acceptance letter for studying psychiatry at Harvard and became a part of the historic first batch of women at the medical school.

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. Describing her husband as a “wonderful caretaker of the house and the kids”, Dr Cohen acknowledged him for supporting her medical career in an interview.

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Awards And Achievements

Dr Cohen held many leadership positions during her illustrious medical career: chief of the day hospital at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, superintendent of the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center in Boston, and psychiatric director of the North Suffolk Mental Health Center. She also taught at Harvard Medical School and at the University of Miami Medical School. Additionally, Dr Cohen served as a trainer and adviser for disaster intervention on various occasions. 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.

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Dr Cohen confessed to having faced sexism and misogyny at various points of her medical career. In an interview with the National Library of Medicine for their Changing the Face of Medicine project, she said, “ Once a male physician wondered why I was not at home taking care of my children and rejected my application.” However, she overcame all such obstacles and went on to open doors for women and minorities at every level.

Picture Credits: The Boston Globe and raquelcohendisaster.com

Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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