The Academy is privileged to honor Howard C. Cohn, MD, with the 2017 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. This award recognizes Dr. Cohn for his longstanding commitment to blindness prevention in the developing world.
Dr. Cohn was nominated by Helen Keller International, an organization he joined as a board member and volunteer in 1994. Over the decades, Dr. Cohn’s impact has shaped all facets of HKI, from operations to program implementation to fundraising, staff development and education. Through his determination and remarkable surgical skills, as well as his exceptional teaching talents, Dr. Cohn helped preserved sight for hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar and Vietnam.
In 1998, Dr. Cohn reestablished HKI’s European branch and dedicated the organization to promoting measures to prevent blindness, eye disease and malnutrition in developing countries by raising visibility and funds.
Dr. Cohn played an instrumental role in establishing HKI’s cataract activities in Vietnam and Myanmar. From 1995 to 2000, he traveled frequently to Vietnam to establish five training centers to train local ophthalmologists in cataract removal. He also brought much-needed medical equipment from French hospitals to Vietnamese rural hospitals. In addition, Dr. Cohn helped HKI’s trachoma-prevention activities in Vietnam with medicine, training and equipment.
In 2001, Dr. Cohn oversaw the development of a cataract surgery project in Myanmar, to which he has continued to contribute his time and efforts. Since its inception, the program has performed over 300,000 cataract surgeries and improved the quality of post-surgical results to meet World Health Organization’s standards.
Dr. Cohn also helped spearhead the program’s development strategy to ensure its long-term sustainability, cultivating many relationships with partners and donors in France and other countries. He knocked on every door, especially European corporations, raising millions of dollars through the European office, all in his spare time. He brought in corporate donors and leveraged all his personal and professional networks, all with one goal in mind: to help prevent and cure blindness. All told, Dr. Cohn has helped secure millions in funding to support HKI programs around the world.
Dr. Cohn is an American ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma. He is in private practice and on the staff of the American Hospital in Paris, where he has lived for over 35 years.