Who am I?
Katherine Schlaefer Cohen, with her background in biochemistry and a Master in Public Health, has worked around the world to improve the health and wellbeing of populations, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized. Over the years, Katherine has led initiatives to redesign nutritious and affordable menus for shelters and orphanages in Ecuador, teach culturally relevant healthy cooking classes around the world, and change common perception of healthy eating. Currently Director of Occupational Health at United Health Group, Katherine has held a variety of positions in her nine years at the company. She’s worked on projects to improve access to and understanding of healthy foods; address the childhood obesity epidemic through school-based programs; integrate cultural and linguistic differences into health programs; and develop innovative approaches to combating the “diabesity” epidemic plaguing the United States. Outside of work, Katherine enjoys swimming, Capoeira, spending quality time (often cooking or eating!) with her family and rediscovering the wonders of the world with her children, Isla and Clyde.
How did you find FORM?
I was fortunate to find FORM while touring the UST Child Development Center. We had been searching for a center for our first child and I was continuously disappointed and frustrated with the seemingly ubiquitous use of “containers” at other centers. I happened to ask Carolyn why the UST Child Development Center infant rooms were free of containers and she mentioned the upcoming FORM meeting (with Polly Elam!) as she explained. That was the birth of a wonderful relationship. We’ve been extraordinarily privileged to have Carolyn care for both of our children at the CDC.
What aspect of the Educaring® Approach resonates with you the most and why?
Freedom to explore and move. Both my husband and I need (arguably excessive) movement, so it was no surprise to discover that our kids did, too. Honoring the Educaring® Approach, we’ve empowered our kids to learn to move and trust their own bodies. As a result, we continued to be amazed by the grace of their movements and revel in their joy of personal accomplishment.
What are you most grateful for?
My two wildly creative, expressive, active and thoughtful kids and the supportive environment we’ve found at the CDC.
What is one thing you do for yourself? Or what would you like to do for yourself?
I take time every morning to exercise, to refresh physically and mentally and ready myself for the challenges of the day. I’ve always started my days that way and am very grateful for my husband for allowing me to continue the practice despite the demands of kids and his own need to exercise.
If your life was a book or song, what would the title be?
This question stumped me, so I asked my husband for his input. He later came across a FORM article titled “Finding Balance in a Storm” and immediately responded that that should be the name of my life book. So, I’m “borrowing” the title.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I devoured every single Nancy Drew book ever written when I was young. I was an avid babysitter and frequently rode my bike to the local bookstore to buy the latest and greatest in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series with my earnings. My daughter recently found some of the books and has been asking me to read them, so I’m excited to (someday) share them with her.
What teacher inspired you the most? How?
My Portuguese professor in grad school was inspiring in the way that she pursued a life that aligned perfectly with her passion. It was evident in her palpable happiness and energy for life and what she taught. I also consider all of the kids I’ve worked with in the past—including my own—poignant and inspiring teachers, as I’ve learned more from seeing the world through their eyes than I do from lessons learned from any formal teacher.
What 3 words best describe you?
My husband would (and often does) say I’m intense, driven and direct and, but I like to think of myself as energetic, creative and genuine.
What is the best question anyone has asked you?
With a 3 year old at home, I’ve learned to embrace the question “Why. . .” and everything that follows.