Leslie J. Cohen, JD

Areas of Achievement: 
Health/Medicine, Higher Education

Honored by

Donor(s) name: The University of Arizona Department of Family & Community Medicine

The Department of Family and Community Medicine is proud to honor Leslie J. Cohen, JD, assistant professor. Leslie served as the inaugural director of the UA Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities from 2007 – 2018, and the department’s Interim Vice Chair for Community Engagement.

“Leslie’s contributions to the UA Sonoran Center and our department are nothing short of remarkable,” said Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Leslie earned her Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from the University of New Mexico School of Law. Over her distinguished career, Leslie developed considerable expertise in disability law and policy, making countless contributions to the field of disability law.

Prior to joining the UA, she was the executive director of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Arizona's protection and advocacy system for persons with disabilities. She served in that position for more than 10 years. In addition, Leslie was a consultant to organizations in Arizona and nationally on a wide variety of strategic planning, management and substantive disability issues. She has provided leadership at local, state and national levels through participating on many boards and commissions, including the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council; the National Association of University Centers on Disabilities (president, board of directors), Primavera Foundation (president, board of directors) and Linkages (board member).

Under Leslie’s leadership, the Sonoran Center has helped thousands of individuals with disabilities through teaching, community education, model programs and outreach. The center leveraged its core federal grant of approximately $500,000 to become a multimillion-dollar center, and it has continued to expand its activities and partnerships. Leslie’s leadership also has increased the visibility of the Sonoran Center on the state and national levels.

What’s more, Leslie has had a positive impact on those she has led.

“Leslie’s leadership and mentorship during her tenure as our first director supported my professional growth and commitment to this field,” said Jacy Farkas, MA, training and project director at the Sonoran Center. “Leslie has cultivated more than 120 future leaders through the expansion of our interdisciplinary training programs. These programs provide students the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the lived experience of people with developmental and other disabilities, and demonstrate how they can make an impact through research, practice and policy to expand opportunities for everyone to belong in our communities.”

Throughout the years, Leslie has consistently demonstrated her commitment to people with disabilities, and has been a model and inspiration to those with whom she has led and worked. We are grateful!