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Celebrating Dr. Lucien Côté

On the Occasion of his Retirement

After training in internal medicine and serving in the Air Force, Lucien Côté came to Columbia in 1958 and has been here ever since. He started as a resident at the Neurological Institute that year, following which he trained in neurochemistry under Heinrich Waelsch at the Psychiatric Institute. When the William Black Building opened in 1965, Lucien was recruited by Melvin Yahr to join the Parkinson Research Laboratories on the third floor of that building. Lucien, along with Dr. Yahr and Dr. Erminio Costa, organized the first international conference on the biochemistry and pharmacology of the basal ganglia, held in the Black Building auditorium in November 1965; the proceedings were published in 1966.

Lucien conducted lab research on the neurochemistry of the basal ganglia and was also engaged in the clinical care of Parkinson patients after joining the faculty in 1965. Some 20 years later, he gave up lab research to become a full-time clinician. The devotion and warmth with which he has cared for his patients in addition to his clinical skills is his hallmark; his patients have returned this devotion in full measure. Many have made donations to the department in Lucien’s honor, and even adult children of his patients have become involved in the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in tribute to him.

Deeply committed to caring for his patients, Lucien retired from the Department of Neurology at the age of 90 on December 31, 2017, only because he can no longer make the long drive to the medical center from his home due to loss of sensation in his right foot from a nerve root problem. Lucien’s patients are not the only ones who will miss him; so will those of us who are his colleagues in the divisions of movement disorders and aging and dementia, as well as the many CUMC clinicians who have consulted him about their own personal Parkinson problems as well as those who refer their patients to him. All of us will miss his charm, his warmth and his genial and ready accessibility.

On a personal note, Lucien and I go way back, having been residents at NI together, and then working in our side-by-side labs in the Parkinson Research Labs in the Black Building, mapping out the biochemistry of the basal ganglia, and subsequently being clinical colleagues. I recall those years and our long relationship with great pleasure.

Stanley Fahn, MD