New Maine Times Book Review: 'Healing After Dark'

Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: 'Healing After Dark'

"HEALING AFTER DARK: Pioneering Compassionate Medicine at the Boston Evening Clinic"

by Morris A. Cohen, M.D., and Richard Shain Cohen

CCB Publishing, April 2011

184 pp., $27.95

978-1-926918-43-3

reviewed by Lee E. Cart

Free health care for the poor? This is a radical idea in today’s society but was even more so back in 1927, when Dr. Morris Cohen first established the Boston Evening Clinic, a  place to treat “the working man and his family when they can spare the time to come” [viii]. Written by Dr. Cohen and enhanced with recollections by his son, Richard Cohen (a resident of Cape Elizabeth), "Healing After Dark" tells the story of one man’s ambitions to open a clinic for low-wage workers and their families, a clinic which has since set the standards for all such clinics across the country.

Rich details of early 20th century Boston set the opening scenes of this narrative. Readers first encounter Cohen as a youth, a Romanian immigrant who knew what it meant to be poor and uneducated. But with hard work and perseverance, he was able to put himself through high school and then medical school. It was while working as an intern, delivering babies in the tenements of New York (back when doctors made house calls) that Cohen realized that he “now wanted to help to good health the people whose conditions [he] knew best, those who could pay little or nothing, who perhaps needed care the most” [25]. With this thought in mind, Cohen embarked on an endeavor that continued until his death in 1974: providing low-cost or free health services to the Boston area. Despite the toll of “discouraging days, exhausting days of tension, anxiety in the midst of work, continual financial stress, and family concerns,” Cohen persevered [43]. He learned to juggle the complexities of running a clinic, maintaining a practice, and raising a family. However, long days and the heavy work load took its toll, leading to the divorce of his first wife, an event his son, Richard, elaborates on in one of his many sidebars.

Over the decades, The Boston Evening Clinic grew ever larger, requiring more financial support and physical space. Due to its success, the clinic gained national recognition from President Kennedy, who addressed the issue of health care for the poor in 1961, stating there was an “immediate need for a vast network of community night-time medical centers for working people” [121].

"Healing After Dark" is a detailed account of one man’s vision of health care for all. Cohen turned his dream into a successful reality. From that, various health-care laws were passed which created Medicare and Medicaid and also the Affordable Care Act. Health-care providers, legislators and those interested in medical history will find this book a thought-provoking read.

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