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Hopkins surgeon 'a good friend and a nice guy'

The Johns Hopkins doctor who was shot on the job in the hospital Thursday by a patient's son is a well-liked and well-respected surgeon — who is known for entertaining his colleagues by performing magic tricks — according to those who work with him.

Police officials said the doctor was expected to survive a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Coworkers identified him as David B. Cohen, a 45-year-old orthopedic and spinal surgeon on Hopkins' staff for more than a dozen years.

Hospital officials wouldn't confirm the doctor's name, citing privacy issues, and no one answered the phone or the door at his Cockeysville home or at his Hopkins office phone.

But Milton Thomas, who has worked at Johns Hopkins as an X-ray technologist for 20 years, called Cohen a "good friend and a nice guy."

He said Cohen's affection for putting on magic tricks around the surgery floor and in the operating room earned him the nickname "Man of Magic" in the Nelson Building.

Police said Cohen was shot by Paul Warren Pardus, 50, of Arlington, Va., who later fatally shot himself and his mother, because he was unhappy with his mother's condition. Thomas said he believes the shooting was not a reflection of Cohen as a surgeon, but rather a "reflection of the times."

Cohen is a "fine spinal and neurology surgeon," he said. "It's just a sad day. Patients expect to get done whatever they need perfectly."

An orthopedic surgeon who works with Cohen agreed. The doctor, who did not want to be identified because he's not authorized to speak for the hospital, said Cohen is an "experienced spinal surgeon" and was "thorough and methodical." Cohen feels personally and emotionally involved in his patients' care, he said.

Cohen and the others who work in the department are also accustomed to dealing with distraught patients and family members and seeing the traumatic injuries of accident victims, as well as those suffering from degenerative conditions.

"It's part of life at Hopkins," said the doctor.

"Things can get tense with family, but to have this happen, to have the patient and the doctor become targets, is really shocking and tragic," he said. "When things don't go well, you feel it's a direct result of your own work and you feel bad. And I certainly understand the depth of emotion. But for [Cohen] to be involved in something like this is surprising."

The doctor said no other situation has come close to this in his memory, and he expected Hopkins officials to take another look at security — though he said he believed that the hospital already was "as or more secure than the other hospitals in town."

The doctor said there were a number of witnesses to the events, but he believed that the staff would rebound because Cohen is expected to make a good recovery. But they are likely to become more aware of their surroundings.

Cohen, who was in surgery until the evening, is married to a Hopkins nurse, Cynthia Cohen. They have two young children. Neighbors in their Cockeysville neighborhood didn't want to talk about the shooting. And their house was dark Thursday evening.

Cohen graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1990 and completed his residency at Johns Hopkins. He also did postgraduate work at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a fellowship in spinal reconstructive surgery at Hopkins.

There have been no disciplinary actions or malpractice judgments against Cohen in the last decade, according to the state Board of Physicians.

Baltimore Sun staff writer Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.



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