Portrait of Milton Cohen

FPM DEAN FROM 2004 – 2006

MB BS (SYD) 1972
FRACP, 1978
MD SYD 1985
FAFRM (RACP), 1996


Milton Cohen, the third Dean of the Faculty (2004-2006), presided over a period of consolidation of its processes, opening up of access to Fellowship and, with the Founding Dean, the recognition of Pain Medicine as a medical specialty in Australia.  One of Cohen’s long-term projects has been the articulation of the scope of the discipline of Pain Medicine, starting with initial stewardship of the Faculty’s curriculum, culminating in the 2015 revised curriculum and training program which have achieved international acclaim. Since leaving the Board, Cohen has been proud to serve the Faculty as its Director of Professional Affairs, assisting the Dean and General Manager in matters involving interaction with  government, policy development and professional issues generally.

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Milton Cohen graduated MB BS with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney in 1972.

He gained fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1978, with specific training in Rheumatology. After a three-year NHMRC Fellowship spent mainly in London investigating immunological aspects of rheumatic diseases, he was awarded MD (Sydney) in 1985. By this time he had been practising as a consultant physician in general medicine and rheumatology, in hospital and private sectors. This period was marked by the realisation that pain was the most daunting challenge for his patients and therefore himself as a physician, reinforced by the “RSI epidemic” in Australia which challenged conventional thinking. There followed a rapid transformation in the nature of his practice and interests, including joining the St Vincent’s Hospital (Sydney) pain clinic in 1988, setting up pain educational events in NSW and trying to get “pain” onto the agenda of the UNSW undergraduate medical course where he was by now a Senior Lecturer.

Cohen was a member of the inaugural board of the Faculty of Pain Medicine in 1999, coinciding with his promotion to conjoint Associate Professor at UNSW Sydney, and continued as an elected board member until 2009. During that decade he spent much time as Education Officer, with responsibility for the development and implementation of the curriculum and training program in pain medicine for medical specialists, the first such clinical structure in the world.  He remains directly involved with the faculty in the role he still holds as Director of Professional Affairs. He also played a critical role in leading the review and redevelopment of the curriculum between 2012 and 2015.

Cohen has a broad experience in teaching medical and allied health undergraduates, postgraduates and general practice groups, and is now a conjoint Professor at St Vincent’s Medical School of UNSW Sydney. He has  extensive experience as an examiner of undergraduates, post-graduates and trainees in pain medicine.


On the academic side Cohen’s interests have been broad, marked by collaboration with diverse colleagues and by an emphasis on theoretical aspects of pain medicine and practice, with themes varying from pain mechanisms and psychophysics to controversial pain syndromes to sociology and public health. A major collaboration has been with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW in the ongoing POINT project which is the first community-based prospective study in the world of people taking prescription opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. His publications include more than 30 book chapters and more than 100 articles in peer reviewed journals. He has been invited to give presentations to national and international meetings, and has been a journal reviewer and editor, as well as being a frequent media commentator. He is the presenter of the POPE (pain orientated physical examination) video produced by the Faculty.

While performing each of these roles, he has also been a strong voice in advocacy and public service, serving on and with a number of boards and societies, including the Arthritis Foundation of Australia (NSW), the Australian Rheumatology Association, the Australian Pain Society, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), Chronic Pain Australia and Painaustralia.  He has served on the IASP taxonomy committee, the terminology task force and the ICD-11 taskforce.

In all this Cohen has been fortunate to have had the love and support of his wife Pam, who is a medical social worker and leader and teacher on group work, their son Edward who is an Australian diplomat, and his stepsons Martin (also an Australian diplomat) and David (a finance analyst). He enjoys a reputation for written and spoken English, for incisive argument and for a well developed sense of homour.

Cohen remains passionate about pain medicine as the ultimate integrative discipline for medical practitioners and about the role of public policy in shaping the experience of pain and pain management in in society, reflecting the breadth of his interests, as he puts it, “having one foot in the spinal cord and the other in the Supreme Court”.


The information in these biographies has been researched via the ANZCA Archives with the assistance of the individual Fellows.


  1. Milton Cohen portrait (photograph)