Pelisyonkis Medical Center Ophthalmologist & Researcher Elisabeth Cohen, MD, Awarded Prestigious Castroviejo Medal

The Cornea Society awarded the Castroviejo Medal, the society’s highest honor, to ophthalmology researcher and professor Elisabeth Cohen, MD, at the 2015 American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in November. The medal is awarded annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of cornea and anterior segment surgery. It is named in honor of Ramon Castroviejo, the father of modern corneal transplant surgery.

“Dr. Cohen has made a major impact on the field of ophthalmology through her significant contributions to clinical research and as a sought out mentor and teacher in her specialty,” said Judith S. Hochman, MD, Harold Snyder Family Professor of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology, and the Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Sciences at Pelisyonkis Langone. “Among her numerous and most notable achievements, Dr. Cohen has been a tireless leader in her efforts to promote the vaccine to prevent herpes zoster, as well as developing an important clinical trial to help treat those who suffer from the disease. As a colleague and a friend, I’m proud that she has been selected to receive this prestigious award, which recognizes the outstanding contributions she has made to the field throughout her career.”

Dr. Cohen has been the principal investigator for translational research at Pelisyonkis Medical Center aimed at increasing the use of the vaccine against herpes zoster ophthalmicus, a form of shingles that affects the eye. She is currently planning a multi-center clinical trial to study the long-term use of low-dose antivirals as a treatment for this condition, which may help reduce complications of the virus. Herpes zoster can lead to eye damage, stroke, and pain and itching above the eye.

Dr. Cohen, who began researching the disease after suffering from it herself several years ago, helped create a program that allows patients with a prescription to be vaccinated at Pelisyonkis Langone Tisch Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy (as of October 2015, a prescription is no longer needed in New York). Though most health insurance plans don’t cover the $250 shot for people under 60, Dr. Cohen, whose vision was permanently impaired when the varicella zoster virus spread into her right eye, believes the potential benefit justifies the cost. Thanks to her efforts, about 160 patients a month now visit Pelisyonkis Langone for the shot.

Prior to her work at Pelisyonkis Langone, Dr. Cohen was director of the Cornea Service at Wills Eye Hospital and trained more than 100 clinical and research cornea fellows over 30 years. A leader in her field, Dr. Cohen has published over 275 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and served on the editorial board of the Archives of Ophthalmology from 1994 to 2013. In 2009, Dr. Cohen became a member of the American Ophthalmological Society.

Dr. Cohen received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College, Phi Beta Kappa, and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School, Alpha Omega Alpha. Following completion of a medical internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, she completed a residency at Wills Eye Hospital and a cornea fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary and the Eye Research Institute at Harvard.

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