Dana Cohen, MD, is an integrative physician, trained by two legends in the complementary health field: (the late) Dr. Robert Atkins, physician and author of Atkins Diet fame (and more), and Dr. Ronald L. Hoffman, practicing physician, author of How to Talk to Your Doctor, and internet host of Intelligent Medicine. Dr. Cohen serves on the Board of Directors for the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), a non-profit group, which supports thousands of holistic medical practitioners in the U.S.
In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Cohen is always on the lookout for a creative outlet. She has tried her hand at improv, acting, printmaking, soup making, and everything between, including becoming an ordained minister and officiating her first wedding. Dr. Cohen lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with Betty, a beagle mix rescue dog.
On a Rewire Me Moment 35,000 Feet Above Ground
Although I truly feel practicing integrative medicine is the best medicine, it’s a choice I must defend constantly. A few years ago, I was really questioning whether I wanted to be a doctor and have my own practice. On a long flight to Oregon, I heard an announcement that a doctor was needed. Everyone who knows me knew I had always wanted to be called on board for an emergency. Without hesitation I pushed the call button.
Although, the elderly woman I helped ended up being completely fine, it was a bit hairy for a few minutes. After a few high fives from other passengers, I went back to my seat, quietly thanking the universe for giving me my answer: I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.
An hour or so later, the steward tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I could help another person. I got up and helped, receiving many more high fives and a few dinner invitations. I now loudly and proudly thanked the universe. I couldn’t have been any surer of my place in this world. I decided to continue practicing as long as I was able to help people and make a difference.
On Going Against the Grain
When I started looking for jobs for my residency I answered an ad for a “world-renowned wellness center” in New York City. I kept thinking, “How cool would that be if I ended getting a job with Dr. Robert Atkins of the Atkins diet fame.” I must admit I had no previous knowledge of alternative or integrative medicine, so I was thrilled to get the job.
A simple course of action for improved health: Try eliminating gluten for a minimum of three weeks. Not simple enough? Do a detox once a year. Get tested for Vitamin D levels. Limit caffeine to a cup a day. Get some sun, some fresh air. Learn to meditate.
On the Joy of Serving as a Last Resort
Once a 50-year-old female came to me listless and lifeless, on heavy medication for depression. I started her on bioidentical hormones, found that she also needed a little thyroid support, suggested some nutritional changes, and got her started with some supplements. Within three months she was a completely different person—animated, vibrant, and able to wean off of some of her meds.
Another patient had terrible fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue. For years, her whole body hurt. After her initial visit, I put her on medical detox, which included an elimination diet (no gluten, dairy, soy, corn and other common food sensitivities) and drinking a shake to help the liver detoxify. She came in three weeks later, literally jumping and shouting, “I have never felt better!”
On a Simple Course of Action for Improved Health
Try eliminating gluten for a minimum of three weeks. Not simple enough? Do a detox once a year. Get tested for Vitamin D levels. Limit caffeine to a cup a day. Get some sun, some fresh air. Learn to meditate.
On Soothing the Savage Beast
Music is my salvation. It’s my escape.
A song that really speaks to me is Alanis Morissette’s “Thank You.” I heard it at the time I was questioning whether I wanted to be a medical professional.
It starts with: “How ’bout getting off of these antibiotics? How ’bout stopping eating when I’m full up.”
On the Healthcare Crisis
I think having a medical flex spending account where patients take responsibility for how they want to spend their money and choose who they want to see, coupled with catastrophic insurance, may be a viable answer.
On a Humbling Medical Experience
I watched my mother wither away from Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. She lost control of all of her functions, and I was completely unable to do anything about it.
On Sticking With It
I am the first in my family to graduate college and go into medicine. I made a decision at a very young age that I wanted to be a doctor and never waivered. I actually had little guidance, but knew I would always get there.
On Sticking With It (Part 2)
I was one of 25 women appearing Off-Off-Broadway in “The Thinnest Woman With the Fewest Wrinkles Wins.” The show was about female body issues and self-esteem. I was one of the few with no dance experience. I got involved because my Pilates instructor was the choreographer and creator.
During rehearsals, she would make us look at images of the perfect and unachievable bodies that female models have, and then put our feelings about these images into movement and the written word. I stood with my arms tightly against my body, paralyzed. I had never learned to express myself this way. I actually quit.
The instructor called a week later to ask if I was happy with my decision. I was not. So I went back. Four months later, I was leaping over the professional dancers during opening night warm-ups, singing, “I’m a dancer!” It was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up.