Carl I. Cohen, MD: Dayenu! It Has to Be Enough


Remembering the many ways Carl I. Cohen, MD, added to the field of psychiatry.


Carl I. Cohen, MD Image Credit: ©SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Carl I. Cohen, MD Image Credit: ©SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Right before the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, and during the 8 days of the Jewish holiday of Passover, on April 27, , we heard that our psychiatrist colleague, Carl I. Cohen, MD, had passed away. And “we” included an e-mail message to almost 400 colleagues; he was that well known and loved. Carl was SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, and director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. He was also the founding director of the Brooklyn Alzheimer's Disease Assistance Center and the Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship Program.

There is a popular song called Dayenu (“It Would Have Been Enough”) that is sung during the telling of the Passover story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to reach the Promised Land of Israel following a 40 year journey. The song celebrates what God was thought to have done for the people. Each stanza closes with dayenu (“it would have been enough”), such as:

If He had taken us out of Egypt and not made judgements on them; dayenu.

The Passover story can be told in many ways with many variations, including some that have a social justice focus. Carl had that social justice ideal. So, let me use dayenu as a framing device for this eulogy on Carl.

If Carl had only focused on the late life emergence of schizophrenia, it might have been enough;

If Carl had only focused on developing the Radical Caucus of the APA, it might have been enough;

If Carl had not realized the importance of climate change, inviting my wife and me to discuss it during his APA Radical Psychiatry Symposium, it might have been enough;

If Carl had only edited the book Liberatory Psychiatry, it might have been enough;

If Carl and some colleagues, including myself, had only written the 2003 well-cited article “The Future of Community Psychiatry,” it might have been enough;

But Carl not only did all those things, and more, he did them at the highest levels. We have to be satisfied and grateful to have had him for the time we did. There can never be enough remembered about him, but hopefully this suffices for now as a eulogy of the career part of his life.

Like I did at the start of my Humanitarian Award presentation at the APA meeting, please take a minute of silence in his honor, then get back to honoring him with our work.

May his memory be a blessing.

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