What a Wonderful World

March 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs

Their smiles are the signature feature, big, really, really big, and identical. It is the first thing you notice about Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin J. Fein. The couple is downright giddy as they talk about their life. “The glass is not half full. It is overflowing,” Kelli says and Marty nods in agreement. Each achieved success alone. Now together, they are spreading their joy and helping causes dear to their hearts. They are chairing the upcoming Houston Symphony Ball and chose the fitting theme, Music Matters! What a Wonderful World.

Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein, grew-up in a Houston home built by her late grandfather Herman Cohen. Her love of music was nurtured by her mother who played the piano. “I learned music before I spoke English,” Kelli tells me. “My happiest times with my parents were going to Jones Hall and hearing The Houston Symphony. I was a Jr. Patron.” And, it would seem a bit of a groupie for classical musicians. “I met them all, Arthur Rubenstein, Vladimir Horowitz. I even painted a picture for Andre Previn and presented it to him after a concert.” The picture was of a little girl playing the piano.

Kelli lost her beloved piano teacher Jean Viney to Breast Cancer. Kelli witnessed the suffering her young teacher endured and vowed at the tender age of 12 to try to help the sick. This was the initial impetus that led her to a medical career. The path was indirect. Before Medical School, Kelli studied Philosophy and French at Sweet Briar College and the University of Texas. She participated in the DeBakey Summer Surgery Program after her first year of college. She later earned a Master’s in French Literature while working as an au pair in Paris.

Dr. Cohen Fein has been practicing Pediatric and General Diagnostic Radiology for almost 17 years. She has been Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Chief of Musculoskeletal Radiology at Ben Taub Hospital and Chief of Radiology at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research. Kelli was recently awarded a Doctoral degree in Education at the University of Houston where she completed a dissertation on the physician-patient relationship.

Kelli’s medical career was all encompassing. After being on call 36-hours during the winter of 1998, an exhausted Kelli fell into bed. Moments later she bolted upright, remembering a holiday party she’d promised to attend. “All my friends and their children were there.” Dear friends, Lois and George Stark, asked which of the children belonged to her. Kelli’s answer was, “I have yet to meet the man of my dreams.” George got a twinkle in his eye and “talked me into one last blind date with a gentleman he promised, ‘has a good heart.’ Two weeks later Marty called.”

“We talked for 45 minutes that night and our first date was a 4-hour dinner,” Marty interjects. They just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. They are blessed with two young children and share a beautiful blended family with Martin’s older children. Both Kelli and Marty are constantly mindful that life is a precious miracle, especially since both his parents are Holocaust survivors. Marty is the Founding Chair of the Houston Holocaust Museum. He and Kelli are continuing supporters. Kelli was on the steering committee for Dr. Sheldon Rubenfeld’s 6-month conference featuring speakers on Medical Ethics and the Holocaust at the Holocaust Museum Houston and Kelli and Marty co-chaired the 2009 HMH Dinner.

Marty’s parents were both from Warsaw, Poland. His father survived four concentration camps. The day Dachau was liberated, April 29, 1945, he was found unconscious, weighing just 80 pounds. Martin’s mother was spared the camps and the Warsaw Ghetto. With the help of her sister and a cousin she managed to get papers identifying her as an orphaned Christian. She survived working at a restaurant operated by a pro Nazi family in Wittlich, Germany. When the fighting was over she went to the displaced person’s office in near-by Munich. As she began to ask about her family the tears began to fill her eyes. She asked the young clerk if he had a tissue. He replied, “I’ll give you a tissue and the key to my heart.” They were married a short time later. When Marty was two years old, they arrived in the United States and settled in Louisville, Kentucky.

“My parents really represent the American Dream,” Marty says. “They arrived with no money, not speaking English. Dad worked two jobs and went to English class at night. They had no social life – saved every penny and managed to open a clothing store.” His dad began building apartments and homes and Marty painted and cleaned all through high school. Marty’s friends taught him about America. Many are still his friends today.

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