News / USA

Professor Unravels Mysteries of Medicine

In free lectures to the community, John Cohen strives to make technical language understandable

Professor John Cohen, who has received nearly 30 Excellence in Teaching Awards from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is now sharing his knowledge with the wider community.
Professor John Cohen, who has received nearly 30 Excellence in Teaching Awards from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is now sharing his knowledge with the wider community.

Multimedia

Audio
Shelley Schlender

It’s been said that while everyone loves learning something new, people don’t always like being taught. A scientist from Colorado is working to change that.

Professor John Cohen still remembers his very first lecture, decades ago. "My slides didn’t work and I talked too fast and nobody knew what I was talking about and my knees were knocking. It was awful."

That’s not the case today. In 40 years as a professor of Immunology, Cohen has received nearly 30 Excellence in Teaching Awards from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

"Dr. Cohen is incredibly enthusiastic in his lectures," says one of his students. "Very knowledgable."

"He’s one of the best lecturers I’ve ever heard," says another.

A third medical student agrees. "You just can’t help it to usually pay attention."

Cohen's approach is to not only help his students understand immunology, but also to allow them to enjoy learning about it. He thanks that first, awful lecture for his teaching success today.

"What I did figure out was, I’ve got two choices, like everyone else," he says. "I can go on saying, oh my God, that was awful, I’m going to do as little teaching as I possibly can because I’m no good, I hate it, and they hate me, or I’m going to become better at it."

Professor John Cohen, with guest lecturer Dan Bessesen, at a Mini Med School gathering to discuss the science of medicine with members of the community.
Professor John Cohen, with guest lecturer Dan Bessesen, at a Mini Med School gathering to discuss the science of medicine with members of the community.

Bringing high-tech science down to earth

He got so much better, that he took his lectures on the road.

In 1989, Cohen began a free series of lectures for the community about the science of medicine. The purpose of the lectures is to enlighten people by providing a scientific background that will improve their understanding of the human body and help them take charge of their health.

Cohen expected his Mini Med School to attract just a few science fans. However, more than 17,000 people have attended Mini Med over the past 20 years. It has inspired similar programs in more than 80 schools and hospitals around the world.  

Helen McFarlane, who manages Mini Med, says its down-to-earth explanations empower people to expect the same from their doctors. "If there’s something going on with your own health, You can say, wait, I don’t quite understand this. Explain to me what this words means, and then I’ll get through and understand what’s happening."

Cafe Scientifique

Cohen organizes another innovative teaching gig called Cafe Scientifique. Every month, it packs a Denver brewpub with more than 100 people, eager to hear a local scientist discuss cutting-edge research. Cohen is a big fan of the informal discussions about science, which began in 1998 in England. His Denver Cafe Sci is one of the longest-running and most popular in the U.S.

Presenters have included researchers, professors, clinicians and, recently, physiologist Inigo San Millan. "I have to say this is a new format for me. I feel like a little bit naked."

Cohen says most of the scientists and clinicians who speak at Cafe Sci find a receptive audience, and realize that giving a talk is not that scary.

"I have lots of clinical colleagues who take care of patients, and I’ve never heard any of them say to me, 'Oh, I’m a terrible doctor, I kill half of my patients.' Nobody says that, and nobody feels that. My research colleagues never say, 'Oh, I’m a terrible researcher. My experiments are stupid and half of them don’t work.' But it’s amazing how many people say, 'Oh, I’m a terrible teacher, I’d do anything to get out of it, and it’s a waste of time for me.'"

He believes the more someone gets into teaching, the more fun they have. "And you teach everybody. I go to a restaurant, I start to explain the biochemistry of the food to the waiter."

Now Cohen is developing a Cafe Pedagogique, where students and teachers, together, can brainstorm even better ways to teach.  It’s just another reason why the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently presented Cohen with its top award for Promoting Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid