49-Year-Old Weill Cornell Graduate Shows New Diversity in Medical School Classes After Naval and Business Careers
One graduate of Weill Cornell Medical College’s Class of 2007 did not take the usual route to gain his degree. Louis Cooper, of Brooklyn, recently earned his medical degree at the age of 49, following a long and diverse career.
“Many students are coming to medicine after they have gained expertise and life-experience,” says Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “A wealth of experience in other fields helps to add to the diversity of the class, and even to one’s ability as a physician.”
This holds true for the newly anointed Dr. Cooper, who decided to go back to medical school after a varied and remarkable career. He says that he has always been drawn to fields that required both a facility with the sciences and strong interpersonal skills. Medicine seemed an obvious choice to him from an early age, but he explains that he decided to postpone medical school in order to take advantage of other unique opportunities.
Before enrolling at Weill Cornell, at 46, he was drawn to other fields, including service as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree with distinction and a double major in physics and history from Annapolis, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University, which he put to use working for more than 10 years on Wall Street.
But after witnessing the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Dr. Cooper felt a strong desire to devote the rest of his life to helping people. “Like all New Yorkers who witnessed the September 11 attacks, I felt a sense of helplessness,” says Dr. Cooper. “I wanted to be of service to my fellow man, but I was not equipped to do so. The best way I thought I could help others was to become a physician.”
Dr. Cooper, a U.S. citizen, spent a large part of his childhood in Europe. His father was in the movie industry, which took his family overseas to France, Norway, Italy and England. After finishing secondary school, he moved back to the United States.
In New York, Dr. Cooper began an internship at New York University, studying blood disorders. However, after years living as an American abroad, he felt out of touch with the American lifestyle and culture. He decided that the best way to regain his connection with the United States was to join the U.S. Naval Academy.
After attending Annapolis and serving more than five years as a submarine officer during the height of the Cold War, Dr. Cooper left the U.S. Navy to pursue a career in business. He earned an MBA at Harvard Business School, and went on to pursue a successful career as an investment banker in mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Inc. in New York.
Dr. Cooper graduated from Weill Cornell Medical College with “academic distinction” and “honors in research.” He is now a resident physician in Emergency Medicine at New York University/Bellevue, because he feels that in the ER he can help the most people with the widest range of problems.
“The emergency room is a unique environment where a physician is called upon to help individuals at the moment of their greatest need and anxiety,” says Dr. Cooper. “One is challenged to treat both body and soul and to quickly diagnose an extraordinarily wide range of problems,” he explains.
“Compared to many other medical colleges, Weill Cornell is more open to enrolling older applicants and students with a wide array of backgrounds and experiences. The customary path of going from undergraduate straight to medical school is less common here,” says Dr. Charles Bardes, dean of admissions at Weill Cornell. “Our students’ average age is older than many other medical schools—25 to 30 percent of each class is older than 25, which was unusual a generation ago.”
In addition to his leadership and management experience in the Navy and on Wall Street, Dr. Cooper is a glassblower and sculptor. In 2006, he was awarded the “David Clayson Prize for Creativity” as the third year medical student who best demonstrated the ability to balance ongoing involvement in the creative process with the rigors of a medical education.
Adds Dean Gotto, “Louis is a wonderful person whom I met on the student boat trip, as we were the oldest people aboard. He will be a superb physician.”
Weill Cornell Medical College boasts a long history of diversity in gender, race, religion, ethnicity and background of experience.#