Keeping it in the family


Dr Jon and Dr Toby CohenVascular and Endovascular* Surgeon, Dr Toby Cohen and General Surgeon, Dr Jon Cohen are a father and son operating duo with St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital. Toby’s Grandfathers were GPs, his Uncle is a General Surgeon, and his Sister is training to be a Gynaecologist. You could say that medicine is in their blood (vessels!).

Dr Toby Cohen completed his Medical Degree in Dublin in 1999. He remained in Ireland demonstrating anatomy and completing a Masters of Science and Arts at Trinity College Dublin. In 2001 Dr Cohen returned to Australia to work at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and completed his time as a Basic Surgical Trainee. The Advanced Vascular Surgical Programme saw him gain experience in Endovascular Surgery, and Trauma Surgery at various hospitals throughout Australia. In 2008, after the programme he spent three months with Prof. Eric L. G. Verhoeven, a world leader in Endovascular techniques studying and practicing advanced treatment of complex aortic pathology.


In the early 70’s, Dr Jon Cohen was one of the first Vascular Surgeons at Princess Alexandra Hospital with a dual appointment as a General and Vascular Surgeon, but opted to pursue a career in colorectal surgery working in a partnership spanning more than 20 years with Dr John Herron. In 2008, Dr Jon Cohen retired as Director of Colorectal Surgery at Princess Alexandra Hospital to enjoy long service leave, but the passion for his craft had him back in theatre before too long, this time working alongside his son Toby. They have worked together ever since.


“Dad is the most interested and enthusiastic assistant you will ever get, he’s great! Vascular Surgery has changed a lot in the last 10 to 15 years, so when Dad was operating, there was a lot more open surgery, he finds the minimally invasive endovascular surgery we do today really interesting. This is an exciting time for us both to be able to learn from each other.”


It has been a fair trade between the two as Jon, with 40 years of open surgery experience has an invaluable perspective bringing to bear his vast experience in a new area of surgical practice. Equally, Toby is reteaching Jon how to use his skills with state-of-the-art technology, making a lovely blend of tried and tested, contrasting with innovative ground breaking techniques and novel approaches. A truly complementary surgical partnership, “there is no better person to give you direct feedback than your Dad. We are great friends as well as colleagues and we have the greatest mutual respect for each other.” Toby adds.


“St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital is relatively small and independent which is what I really love. It’s what makes it special to us – like we are all part of a family here. We all know each other really well and look after each other. There is a lot of good will in the system, that is the most important thing and it needs to be maintained. There are a lot of great people doing a lot of great work, and I love that I can be part of that.”

*Vascular Surgery is performed on blood vessels and Endovascular Surgery is vascular surgery involving minimally invasive techniques normally with small incisions and the use of telescopic instruments.


This article originally appeared in “CLAN”, our newsletter for St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital donors. You can read the full issue here.

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