2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: David Cohn, Ohio State (Fisher)

David Cohn

Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business

“A curious learner motivated to share my knowledge to develop future principled leaders.”

Age: 51

Hometown: Columbus, OH (born in Washington, DC)

Family Members: Wife Karen; children Julia (21, University of Michigan junior) and Matthew (17, Bexley high school Junior); Ellie (Portuguese water dog)

Fun fact about yourself: I love listening to music and have a bad habit of playing along (exceptionally poorly) on my mandolin, ukulele or guitar.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS, University of Michigan; MD, Georgetown University School of Medicine; Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology (4 years), University of Washington; Fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology (3 years), Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Where are you currently working? Sorry about the long answer – it is a bit complicated.

Employer: Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at the Ohio State University


  1. Chief Medical Officer, overseeing the clinical practice within the cancer program (hospital and clinics), report to the CEO.
  2. I direct the community engagement and philanthropy program at the hospital, providing a connection between medical practice and donors.
  3. I am a practicing gynecologic oncologist (cancer surgeon).
  4. I am an NIH-funded translational scientist with over $5M in federal funding for our research laboratories and over 250 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I am active in my professional society (the Society of Gynecologic Oncology) where I become the President on May 5, 2020. I have served as a volunteer leader in this society for 20 years as a committee member, committee chair, sitting on the board of directors (now for 10 years in various roles), and presiding over the board through 2021. I volunteer my time in providing education about cancer prevention throughout the local community. Much of this work is coordinated through Pelotonia (a fundraising cycling event raising $250M over 11 years and benefiting the OSU cancer program). I have been awarded numerous teaching awards from medical students and physician trainees at Ohio State and nationally. I have been recognized nationally as a “Best Doctor” for 8 consecutive years and recognized nationally for “Top Patient Satisfaction” for 5 consecutive years.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As strange as this sounds, I am very proud of becoming skilled in the use of Excel. Despite having used Excel in most of my roles in my current and previous jobs, I now recognize that I only understood the most basic of functions. I recall my first day learning about pivot tables; I was in awe about what I was able to accomplish (and honestly ashamed that I had not learned earlier!) Since then, I have continued to expand my knowledge of the program, and use pivot tables and other more advanced functions regularly. Because of this, I have become substantially more effective in my job. In fact, the first week after learning my new skill I applied it to a spreadsheet at work and recognized an error that saved our organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of being the holder of two patents for discoveries made in our laboratory at Ohio State. While my overall pride is in the prospect of these discoveries improving cancer outcomes, my specific pride relates to my father. He was a patent attorney who was fascinated with medical technologies. His death from cancer at 51 inspired me to pursue biomedical research and I was proud to have honored him by patenting two of my discoveries. These patents adorned my mother’s refrigerator door as a nod to my role in honoring his legacy.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Ben Campbell, who taught economics during the first month of my EMBA. Having never taken econ before and having no business background, I was incredibly nervous starting out. Ben was engaging, used humor to enhance our learning, and made econ relevant to his students in a way that was truly enjoyable. After being out of the classroom as a student for over 27 years, he was the right professor at the right time. And I have already used some of his techniques in educating my medical students.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? From the beginning of my journey, the faculty at Fisher presented themselves as genuinely interested in the practical education of their students. In their open house for prospective students that allowed a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the experience, it was clear that the EMBA class was engaged, motivated, and most importantly having fun learning together. I was sold.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from the diverse backgrounds of my cohort. This mix facilitated very honest conversations that were without pretense or judgment. I learned an enormous amount from my class (where often the role of the professor was more of a facilitator than an educator). I don’t know what made this class work so well, but from the first week together we knew that the administration chose well.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Through my EMBA program, I learned the critical importance of developing a strategy and developing a plan to successfully execute on that plan that includes appropriate incentives and decision making authority. While that may seem like a really simple concept, it is one that has often been elusive in healthcare administration. I was struck by how this concept emerged in every EMBA class. I have used this extensively when approaching issues in my current position. It has led me to redesign the medical directorship program at our hospital. This has led to a substantially higher alignment of these directors with our enterprise strategic plan and ultimately increased patient quality care, patient satisfaction, and patient care revenues.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I have some great memories of spending weekends with my family in ways that were very different before starting my EMBA. Most Sundays were spent studying together and discussing what we were doing at work or learning in school (my son in high school, my daughter when she was home from college, my wife in her job and me about my MBA classes, readings, or projects). It was really interesting experience to be ‘in school’ with my family. I hope that my dedication to my studies provides inspiration for my family to continue to be or to become lifelong learners.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that there is a ‘right’ time to do so. This myth is certainly not true, and I think that waiting for a perfect moment will likely lead to somebody not pursuing executive education. Reflecting on my decision to pursue an EMBA program once my youngest child was well into high school meant that I was already in a leadership positon in my organization when I began the program. Within the first week, I had wished that I started school years earlier so that I could have applied my new knowledge in my job.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was that I was not always available for social events with my cohort. My work requires me to be at many events in the evenings or weekends, so I missed out on some of the experiences that bring a group together. That being said, I was fully embraced by the group and know that I will be in contact with many students after graduation. This regret gets back to my decision to pursue my executive education at a late point when I was in a position of leadership with increasing demands on my time.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Beth Britt the most. I am always struck by her incredible insight into questions or cases, using experiences from her job or her life that provide context and richness to our discussions. She is always honest in her assessment and never hesitates to challenge a professor or a classmate (and always in a respectful manner). She is the person I would value as a coworker. And she is the person who would be an exceptional leader as a boss.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I found myself in meetings helping to manage a multi-billion dollar organization and wishing that I had started school a decade earlier!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aim to manage a large healthcare system or hospital as an executive leader.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as an active participant who enhanced the learning environment with insight and humor.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Spend a month with my family in Europe exploring and cycling through the Alps and Pyrenees; 2. Climb Mount Rainier (intended to do so August 2020 but COVID will require this to be pushed back to another climbing season)

What made David such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

I would characterize David as a force of nature! He brings great energy, intelligence, and humor to all that he does. His “day job” as a cancer surgeon, Chief Medical Officer, and NIH funded translational scientist indicate the confidence that others put in his skills and judgment. However, it is his personality and ability to connect in a meaningful way with all kinds of people that really sets David apart.

A humble leader, it was weeks before students learned of David’s background and his daily responsibilities in addition to family and school. David had an energizing influence on his team and cohort. With a clear bias for action; he took personal accountability and raised the bar for the entire EMBA cohort given his high standards of excellence which he practiced both inside and outside of the classroom.

The great set of talents that David brought to the EMBA program have been amplified by his learning and experiences during the program. David will surely make an even larger mark as a leader as our health care industry faces challenges that will require exactly the sort of leadership capabilities that David has developed.

I have immense respect and admiration for David Cohn and believe I echo the sentiments of the EMBA Class of 2020.”

Daniel D. Oglevee, MBA
Executive Director, EMBA
Sr. Lecturer, Finance
Department of Finance
The Ohio State University


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