March Inspirational Woman
Dr. Aly Cohen is a board certified internist, and rheumatologist specializing in arthritis, immune system disorders and women’s health. She is also board certified in integrative medicine. Her practice, Integrative Rheumatology Associates P.C., focuses on both traditional western medical management of rheumatologic ailments, as well as integrative options for total “wellness” – such as biofeedback, acupuncture, cognitive therapy, diet and exercise counseling, environmental toxin counseling, smoking cessation, stress management and sleep evaluations.
But that brief bio only scratches the surface when it comes to describing this busy, inspirational woman. When she’s not caring for her patients, Dr. Cohen spends her energy engaged in educating the public about the intimate connection between the chemicals we are exposed to in our environment and our overall well-being.
“Prevention is a huge part of healthcare,” said Dr. Cohen. “There are over 85,000 chemicals currently in commercial use in the U.S., and studies show repeatedly that many of these are wreaking havoc on our health. But there are ways to reduce our exposure to many of these chemicals. And the earlier we can start, the sooner we begin to limit the impact these chemicals are having on our bodies.”
Dr. Cohen’s reach extends from her patients and health professionals to early childhood development experts. She regularly lectures nationally on the topic of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and their relationship to human health, as well as healthy dietary and integrative medicine techniques. She spent two years training with Dr. Andrew Weil and colleagues and has been a consultant for major corporations such as Knowledge Universe to help reduce the chemical exposure of infants and toddlers in over 2,000 KinderCare Daycares across the United States. And her book, The Smart Human’ Essential Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World, is due for release in 2015.
Like I said, she is busy.
Connecting with Younger Generations
Following her passion for environmental health and early education, it seems only natural for Dr. Cohen to seek out an audience of younger generations. Last fall, Dr. Cohen initiated a pilot program at Princeton High School in Princeton, NJ, that integrates environmental health awareness into their health and science curriculum. Dr. Cohen understands how important it is to connect to youth. Teens are one of the largest consumers of personal care products, and many are unaware of the cocktail of toxic chemicals that may be hiding in their favorite products. This is typically the time in our life when we develop brand loyalty, when we decide which products we will use, purchase and – for many of us – ultimately remain committed to for years. But more importantly, Dr. Cohen recognizes that teens are at special risk for chemical exposure.
“Puberty is a period of enormous growth and change,” said Dr. Cohen. “Our bodies are particularly vulnerable to chemicals during this time.”
The program is designed to highlight specific products teenagers use, and get them excited and involved in their health. She explains how particular toxins can enter the body and the chaos they may be causing within. To help get younger audiences actively involved, this program also utilizes an app called, Skin Deep. Developed by the Environmental Working Group, it invites users to easily compare, rate and research the chemicals found in everyday products from everything from shampoo and toothpaste to perfumes and lipsticks.
“This program is not about scare tactics,” said Dr. Cohen. “It’s about empowering teens. I want students to know that they have real control over their health, simply by paying attention to the products they are using and by making safer choices about what goes into, and onto, their bodies.”
This pilot program is only the beginning; Dr. Cohen regularly Skypes with middle schools across the country, offering lectures to students, administrators and teachers alike. And she is currently working with policy leaders to help create an online curriculum for high schools across the United States.
Small Changes with Big Impacts
Dr. Cohen’s approach to educating the youth, parallels her approach to education in general. In short, she’s a realist.
“I’m doing my best to practice what I preach. But I know it’s not always easy. I want people to learn how to limit their exposure, not overwhelm them with intimidating statistics,” said Dr. Cohen. “Instead, I’m hoping to give people the power to making small, everyday decisions about the choosing safer products. The small changes we make often have the biggest impacts.”
To get in touch with WVE’s March Inspirational Woman, Dr. Aly Cohen, and to learn more about her work, visit her website at AlyCohenMD.com. You can also find her on Twitter, @TheSmartHuman and on Facebook.