Doctor’s dancing steps leave lasting footprint

Local star surgeon doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to helping out



A FEW TIMES a week renowned surgeon and digestive disease expert Zane Cohen sneaks away to a small studio where he meets a choreographer. While he will likely never throw down his scrubs to become a professional dancer, the rigorous training is not all for fun.

The local doctor is honing his moves in preparation for Baycrest’s Dancing With Our Stars night, a fundraiser put on by the health centre taking place Nov. 4.

On that night, five prominent Torontonians will perform a dance routine in the hopes of being crowned a star. “I’ve been practising a lot,” says Cohen. “It’s completely out of my comfort zone. It’s a lot of repetition to make me remember.”

Thus far, Cohen has raised more than $100,000 for the fundraiser, which supports Baycrest’s centres for innovation and aging.While it’s the first time Cohen is donning his dancing shoes, he is no stranger to good causes. He’s fundraised for several different hospitals, schools, Jewish organizations and cancer organizations.

Even his work is fuelled by earnest intentions. After obtaining an MD degree in 1969 and becoming a surgeon, Cohen specialized in digestive diseases in an attempt to help his father, an ulcerative colitis sufferer. “It was an easy sell,” says Cohen.

Throughout the years, Cohen has worked as a professor with University of Toronto’s department of surgery, and for years he was the surgeon-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital. He is also the co-founder and a former president of the Canadian Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

Most recently, he’s been involved with his namesake centre, the Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases. There he works with 24 clinical researchers, focusing on colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease research. Currently, he says his main focus is to build support for the centre, which he will continue to do after retiring. “That will be a legacy for me,” he says.

As for his dancing legacy, although Cohen is tight-lipped about the routine he is to perform in front of hundreds of people, he did say he is not in the competition to win. “While I don’t want to make a fool of myself onstage, this is not about me,” he says. “It’s about the centres for innovation and aging. I’m in it for Baycrest to win.”

The Post salutes Zane Cohen for his tireless efforts in the field of digestive diseases and for busting a move in support of Baycrest health centre.