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Oral History Interview

Robert A. Cohen, M.D.

Interview with Catherine Rakow, Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Dr. Cohen discusses the challenges of beginning the Clinical Center at NIMH. He remarks on the success of various people involved in studies there and reflects on his memories of Dr. Bowen's time there.

About Dr. Cohen

In 1952, Robert A. Cohen became director of the division of clinical and behavioral research and deputy director of intramural research at the newly founded National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Cohen's vision there was that a diverse group of patients and an interdisciplinary staff would generate research with creativity, broad thinking, and borderless explorations without the researchers having the ordinary press of funding or writing worries. And by 1970, that approach resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine being awarded to an NIMH scientist.

In 1954, Dr. Cohen hired Dr. Bowen to be part of this unique opportunity. Unparalleled and groundbreaking discoveries were the goal for researchers. And Bowen left NIMH with conviction in his nascent theory in 1959.

Prior to coming to NIMH Dr. Cohen was at Chestnut Lodge psychiatric hospital where he served as Clinical Director from 1948 to 1953. Chestnut Lodge was a major center for psychoanalysis. Dr. Cohen also served as director for the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute from 1959 to 1962 and continued working as a training analyst until his death in October 2009.

Dr. Cohen returned to Chestnut Lodge in 1981 as director of psychotherapy staying until retirement in 1991. The State Department recognized his expertise in 1980 and, in 1981, he treated Iran hostages at a U.S. Military Hospital in Germany. He spent time in retirement documenting historical facts about NIMH and Chestnut Lodge.

Courtesy of Robert Cohen.

Transcript (full text, 317 kb)