Dr. Stephen Cook, ’92
October 10, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, M.A.'09
American neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing once said: “A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more even than the whole man -– he must view the man in his world.”
Dr. Stephen Cook, ’92, has taken this advice to heart. In his work at the Golisano Children’s Hospital and at the Center for Community Health at the University of Rochester Medical Center, he considers both the unhealthy behaviors of obese and overweight children as well as the societal and environmental factors that have led to this national epidemic.
“There’s a complicated interplay between the environment and the biological aspect that affects children,” he says.
The author of 26 journal articles on the condition, Dr. Cook’s research focuses on childhood and adolescent obesity from an epidemiologic perspective. He pioneered the first national report to describe metabolic syndrome in adolescents, and much of his work is centered on community and health services research. Ongoing projects include creating a community resource guide for nutrition and physical activity resources for children and parents, and expanding obesity screening and counseling-based interventions in primary care pediatrics linked to community agencies and resources.
For Dr. Cook, who is dual certified in pediatric and adult-internal medicine and holds a master’s degree in public health, this community-based work is some of his most rewarding because it is aligned with the values he learned as a child and strengthened while at Niagara. “The idea of serving others is very much a part of what I do,” he says. He still sees patients as part of the general pediatric practice at Strong Memorial, where he also teaches medical students and residents, and he serves as an attending physician on the inpatient service at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at URMC, but the majority of his time is spent on community education, research and advocacy activities. He notes that his “research comes home to affect people on a community level.”
Interestingly, Dr. Cook did not aspire to a career in medicine when he enrolled at Niagara. He knew he liked science, and he was interested in health and human services, but it wasn’t until Dr. John Reedy, his biology professor, told him he had what it took to succeed in medical school that he considered becoming a doctor. After graduating from Niagara with honors, he attended medical school at the University at Buffalo, completing residencies in both pediatrics and adult medicine because he liked the flexibility it afforded. This dual training prepared him well for his current research and prevention focus; obesity is now leading to chronic, adult-type illnesses in children.