Dr. Mylan Cohen of Cape Elizabeth at the finish line of the 22nd annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Fort Williams Park. Courtesy Ann Kaplan

CAPE ELIZABETH — Dr. Mylan Cohen took part in his 21st TD Beach to Beacon 10K Aug. 3.

But he’s never run the race.

Dr. Morris A. Cohen examines Johnny Kelley at the Boston Marathon on an unspecified date in this newspaper clip provide by Dr. Mylan Cohen. Contributed

Cohen is co-director of the race medical team, continuing a family tradition that began with his grandfather, Dr. Morris A. Cohen, a Massachusetts physician who was part of the Boston Marathon medical team for decades.

“I guess you could say it was fate,” Cohen said with a laugh. “I’m doing some of the same stuff my grandfather was doing.”

Many of his relatives, he said, went into medicine, including several cousins and an uncle who were huge influences in his life.

“A defining moment for me was visiting my Uncle Mylan in rural Michigan, where he was a doctor,” Cohen said. “He invited me in his office to see how he interacted with patients, and he was dedicated to his community. Before that, I had never thought of a career working with sick or dying people.”

In addition to volunteering at the Beach to Beacon, Cohen also joined the medical team at the Boston Marathon and has been doing that every year since 2012. In some ways, he admitted, his work at both races is an homage to his grandfather and others who inspired him along the way.

Cohen said he began his Beach to Beacon medical team involvement in 1999, the second year of the event, and became the liaison to the organizing committee a couple of years later. Within a couple of years of being involved on the board, he became the medical co-director.

On the Aug. 3 race day, Cohen and more than 180 other volunteers worked in the medical tent, tending to runners who needed assistance. Each year, he said, he sees people with orthopedic injuries, muscle spasms, and most commonly, heat-related problems.

“Most people at the finish line who are struggling have high body core temperatures, which is a potentially life-threatening condition,” Cohen said. “My job is to get them into the tent and help determine how we address their needs.”

He said runners with heat injuries are typically placed in ice water baths to get their body temperatures down. New England, he said, was one of the earliest adopters of the technique. Because of how effective it is, he brought the idea to the Boston marathon in 2012 and they have been using it ever since.

Cohen is a cardiologist and medical director of cardiac imagery and diagnostics at Maine Medical Center.

While there have been a lot of advancements in modern medicine, he noted that simple, yet innovative medical techniques have often had the most impact. New methods to transport patients across grass using special stretchers, and the switch to thermometers that accurately gauge a person’s temperature, have been the most helpful for treating competitive distance runners.

Medical team volunteer Kirsten Buchanan, right, cheers finishers at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Aug. 3 in Cape Elizabeth. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

“There is a fine line between bringing someone to normal temperature using the ice submergence method, and giving them hypothermia,” he said. “Newer rectal thermometers help us gauge that more accurately… It’s not really sexy, new technology that has been the most effective.”

Among his most memorable race moments, Cohen said, was the case of a runner so delirious that he thought police lights in the distance were coming for him, so he dashed into the woods.

“That runner finally came out of the woods, and we treated him for heat injury,” he said. “He could have died that day. … We’ve just seen all sorts of things.”

Cohen also insisted it’s the combined effort of all medical volunteers that allow Cape Elizabeth to put on the race and do it safely each year.

He said the efforts that go into race day, including prior committee meetings and coordination with local fire and rescue departments, are a huge undertaking.

“People do it for all kinds of reasons, but one is to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s an honor to work with all these people, volunteers and runners alike.”


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