Changing the World

"I feel we are put on this planet to learn, to grow and to give back to the next generation that comes along,” said Dr. Bernie Cohen ’71, MSOE Regent."

As demonstrated through his dedication to his patients and staff at Neurological Monitoring Associates LLC, his
decades of global humanitarian work, and his 38 years of philanthropic support to countless areas within MSOE, the immense impact Cohen has made and continues to make on MSOE students knows no bounds.

Growing up, Cohen was fascinated by the intricacies of radio communications. When his parents pushed him to go to
college, he chose a school and moved to Iowa. While there he met someone who worked for the State Patrol radio tower and learned about the equipment.

He next enrolled at MSOE as an electrical engineering major. But when he met professor and mentor Dr. Vincent Canino, he discovered a new passion: biomedical engineering. Canino was on the cutting edge of the new profession.

“I remember Dr. Canino saying there is a new field of study developing. ‘We don’t have a program at MSOE yet, but I think it might be something you’d be interested in.’” Canino advised Cohen on what courses to take, and the focus of his senior design project was cardiac catheterization.

After graduation, Cohen furthered his education and completed his master’s degree in electrical and biomedical engineering and earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and neurophysiology.

After years of consulting and research work, Cohen was recruited to work at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He opened his own private practice in 1983: Neurological Monitoring Associates LLC. Since then, Cohen’s career has been devoted to research involving analysis of electrical activity of the brain and nervous system. His company has found success providing expert neurophysiology to patients undergoing high-risk surgeries in the eastern half of Wisconsin.

The support Cohen received from Canino is one of the driving forces behind his commitment to MSOE. In 2007 Cohen set up the Vincent R. Canino Biomedical Engineering Senior Award, an endowed scholarship awarded annually to an outstanding biomedical engineering senior.

In 2019 Cohen pitched the idea to Dr. Walz of setting up a lab where nursing and biomedical engineering students could perform cadaver dissections. The result was gifting the university an Anatomage Table. The virtual dissection table helps biomedical engineering and nursing students learn more about the human anatomy.

“Over the years, Dr. Cohen has not only provided tremendous insight for the biomedical engineering program as a member of its Industrial Advisory Committee, but he also has demonstrated a great passion for providing an enriching experience for our students,” said Dr. Jeffery LaMack ’97, associate professor and biomedical engineering program director.

Cohen also supports MSOE’s servant-leadership programs, specifically centered around global humanitarian efforts. He had been involved in projects in the U.S. and overseas that brought medical care to populations living in poor and underserved communities. Today, he makes it a priority to travel each year with MSOE faculty and students as part of MSOE Global Brigades.

“I think it’s important MSOE students understand they have a gift in their education and there is an obligation to pass that
knowledge on to help others.”

Cohen recalls one trip to Honduras where he and the group helped a mother save her jaundiced baby. “I told the mother to sit under the tree and let the filtered light hit the baby.” Shortly after, the week-old infant turned a healthy pink shade.

“She was crying, ‘You saved my baby; you saved my baby.’ Then I started crying. She asked me what my name was. I
said Bernie. So, she proceeded to tell me she would name her son Bernie.”

Moments like these are one of the main reasons he established the Cohen Global Humanitarian Fund at MSOE, which provides support for students to travel on these missions and to help fund their health science projects.

“Bernie has done, and continues to do, so much for our institution—traveling with students on a trip to an
impoverished part of the world, providing a virtual cadaver inside the Cohen Human Machine Lab, mentoring students in the life sciences field, and helping MSOE become part of a global network of institutions focused on bioethics. His enormous kindness and generosity will impact generations of our students,” said Dr. John Walz, MSOE president.