Dr. Frances Cohen, a long-time Berkeley resident, who died on May 28, 2014. Photo: courtesy of family

Dr. Frances Cohen, Professor Emeritus in Psychology, University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco (UCSF), died on May 28, 2014 after a short but valiant battle with pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Cohen, Fran to family and friends, had a rich and varied life, was devoted to her family, and had an accomplished career in the field of health psychology. She was raised in Boonton, NJ; moved to Berkeley in 1967 to pursue graduate studies in Psychology at UC, and remained a resident there for the rest of her life, becoming quite active in neighborhood and community organizations.

Dr. Cohen earned her BS degree with distinction in Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1967 and the M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1970 and 1975 respectively. She was awarded a Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine (1975-76) before joining the Medical Psychology faculty (in 1976) at UCSF, where the first doctoral program in health psychology had been established.

During the course of her career, she conducted numerous research studies on the role of personality in health and on the relationship between stress and coping strategies and recovery from a variety of surgeries and illnesses. She made professional and public service contributions as a reviewer for countless journals in her field, an invited presenter at professional meetings, and as a member of government task forces and commissions aimed at improving the state of our nation’s health.

Along with George C. Stone and Nancy E. Adler (and Associates), she co-authored the ground-breaking text Health Psychology (1979), a comprehensive and coherent presentation of psychological knowledge and expertise leading to a better understanding of physical health and illness and contributing to the further study and improvement of health care. It contained over 2,000 references and served as the foundation for an area of psychological study that has since grown exponentially.

Dr. Cohen made significant contributions to health psychology, medical psychology, and to the education of generations of medical professionals.

She was heavily involved in curricular development for the first and second year medical program and served on numerous committees aimed at improving the content and mode of teaching. She was greatly respected as a mentor by graduate and post-graduate students for the support and encouragement she provided for both their professional development and their personal lives. She was repeatedly honored for her scholarship and achievements, e.g., Phi Beta Kappa (1967), Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1967-68). She was named a Fellow in the American Psychological Association (1985) and a Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UCSF (upon her retirement in 2012).

From 1999 until her death she chaired an editorial committee at Berkeley High School that compiled The College Application Handbook for Seniors and their Parents and College Information Guide for Juniors and their Parents. She initiated, researched, wrote, and obtained
funding to produce and mail these substantive guides (thoroughly updated yearly) to all seniors and juniors at Berkeley High School. Each provided pertinent information about college application requirements, advice, and encouragement to increase students’ access to opportunities for obtaining higher education. She also secured funding to have the Senior Handbook translated into Spanish for students whose parents were Spanish-speaking.

Fran was also an active member of the Vistamont Neighborhood Association, especially in earthquake preparedness efforts. She was highly regarded among her many friends as a gourmet chef, enjoyed cooking for others, and was always in search of the next great recipe. She loved to travel and was a person of great energy, drive, and optimism, who will be greatly missed by the countless persons whose lives she touched.

Dr. Cohen was predeceased by her parents, Oscar H. Cohen, M.D., and Elsie F. Cohen.
She is survived by her beloved son, Brett Cohen, Los Angeles, CA; sister Anne C. Richards (Fred Richards), Carrollton, GA: brother Alan L. Cohen (Eva Marie Carney), Arlington, VA; niece Elise Wood Cohen and nephew Marshall Philip Cohen, Arlington, VA.

Burial took place in June at Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA. Chapel of the Chimes Funeral home in Oakland was in charge of arrangements. A memorial service in Fran’s honor will take place at The Faculty Club, UC Berkeley, from 1-4 pm on Sat., July 12, 2014. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to CurePC.org, or a charity of your choice.

Feel free to leave your memories of Dr. Frances Cohen in the Comments.

Berkeleyside is always honored to publish, at no cost, obituaries of members of the Berkeley community. Please email text and photo(s) to editors@berkeleyside.com.

Guest contributor

Freelance writers with story pitches can email editors@berkeleyside.com.