Takeaways from Our Conversation with Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children

By Adina Saban

On Air With Chai is lucky to feature a variety of guests—current and former clients, volunteers, and even former staff. But we were especially lucky when we had the opportunity to have CEO and President of SickKids, Dr. Ronald Cohn, join us in conversation.


Dr. Cohn is a very decorated doctor: he is the Chief of the Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics, Co-Director of the Centre for Genetic Medicine, and a Senior Scientist at the SickKids Research Institute. And in all these positions and in the work it took to get to these positions, Dr. Cohn has gained personal and professional insight, which he spoke about on the podcast. We think this insight is worth sharing with our larger Chai community, so here are some takeaways from Dr. Cohn’s interview:

1. Humility is important, no matter what position you hold.

When Dr. Cohn was in medical school, he worked in the emergency room as a runner. That experience gave him different access to patients that one may not have as a physician, and helped grow an awareness for the “power referential” that can exist in the medical world. This awareness serves as a reminder to be humble when working with patients, because you’re being invited into their “family circle,” usually because of a health problem. It’s a privilege, it’s a responsibility and it’s important to keep that in mind. In life, we sometimes think we are superior to someone because of where we are, but if you treat everyone like they’re on the same level as you, and stay humble, you will feel better and help change that overall mindset.


2. As a higher-up, it’s important to continue work closely with people on the team.

Dr. Cohn always tries to ensure that the health-care workers at SickKids are happy and know that they are appreciated. He recognizes how difficult it is these days to work in healthcare and tries to listen to what people are saying. If there are issues, as long as it’s within control, he tries to find solutions. One way Dr. Cohn does this is by working directly in a unit for some weeks during the year. He can see first-hand the issues he hears about, can get to know the workers in the unit on a more personal basis, and he genuinely enjoys the hands-on work because at his core, he is a pediatrician.

3. Passion and creativity can be very important in any role, no matter what industry.

When you think of science or math, creativity may not be the first word that comes to mind, but according to Dr. Cohn, creative thinking is a key ingredient for every scientist. It helps you think of the question you want to ask and then what to do to solve it, many times leading you to think outside the box. Passion also comes into play here because you have to be passionate to problem solve. If you don’t have the passion, you will lose patience and interest over time. According to Dr. Cohn, true leaders love and enjoy solving problems. And “if you really want to make a difference, to try to accomplish something in your work, you have to love what you do.” It is clear to us that Dr. Cohn shared this based on his own experiences–his passion for his work shined through his words. For this, we are grateful that someone so passionate and dedicated to their work in the healthcare field lives in the same city as us.

In his episode, Dr. Cohn talked in greater detail about his research career and his lab’s focus: trying to develop and design genome editing therapies for genetic disorders. He also discussed the direction he sees and hopes healthcare takes in the next few years. To hear about these topics in depth, as well as his background in medicine, please give his episode a listen! You will not be disappointed!