When Dr. Jay Cohen, medical director of the Baptist Medical Group-The Endocrine Clinic, was a boy, his art projects involved little more than an uncooked potato. “I used to cut the potato in half and cut designs to make drawings.”
By 14, he won an art contest in New York City. While some may have given up art with college looming, his art played an essential role. “I paid for medical school by selling my art.”
He credits his father with his creative sense. “He was a fashion designer before World War II.”
This month, Dr. Cohen’s art takes another leap, following a long career of working with galleries and museums. This month, The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists’ (AACE) journal Endocrine Practice will focus entirely on the topic “Thyroid Cancer Update.”
“Former president Dr. Mack Harrell approached me to submit a piece of art for the cover of the journal,” said Dr. Cohen. Usually, the cover includes photos or figures from scientific manuscripts.
Dr. Cohen agreed and immediately his creative juices started flowing. Instead of creating a sketch of a body or anatomy, he went in another direction. “They’re doing a piece on what’s new in thyroid cancer, so I started thinking about what does thyroid cancer look like under a microscope.” The result is a theoretical pen and ink drawing, which feels largely abstract yet incredibly detailed.
Cohen’s work will appear on the cover of Volume 23, Issue 9, September 2017.
The journal is sent to the 6,000 members of AACE, 145 countries and university medical centers and libraries.
A former musician who also played the jazz alto saxophone in his earlier years, Dr. Cohen directs his creative time to his home art studio. The Endocrine Practice cover painting took about six hours to complete.
Dr. Cohen believes in the connection between helping his patients and the creative brain. Treating patients with chronic illness like diabetes means long-term relationships with patients who may need extra motivation to manage their illness, change a lifestyle or diet. “I keep that creative gene and enjoy it. By thinking creatively, I try to enhance our patients’ experience, be a good listener and help motivate them to do well. It’s hard facing a chronic disease, so, along with my team at BMG-The Endocrine Clinic, we attempt to find ways to look at the present and future in a positive way.”
His office is filled with artwork, and one of his paintings hangs on the wall of the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital’s Emergency department. He recently spearheaded a photography project selling photos for $50 each and donating the $3,000 in proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Like his art career, Dr. Cohen’s long medical career has been full of distinguished awards, community work, and a passion for education, as he’s dedicated his life to helping patients. Together, medicine and art continue to inspire his work as well as the world around him.