May 30, 2017

Former PM&R Faculty Member Sandra Cole Passes Away

Sandra Cole, PhD, a well known sexologist and faculty member in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and in the Medical School, passed away on May 15, 2017.  

Dr. Sandra Cole

Dr. Cole came to the University of Michigan in 1977 to join her husband, Ted Cole, as he accepted the chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.  Both Drs. Sandra and Ted Cole became well known for their work in teaching human sexuality to the University of Minnesota medical students, in famous, closed-door, windows-covered sessions that featured lectures, images and movies that illustrated their topic in a way that was not as generally accepted in the 70’s as it is now.  With Ted Cole’s interest in spinal cord injury, they also became well known for their work promoting the study of sexuality and disability.  Together, in 1976, they won the gold medal at the annual American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine for a scientific educational exhibit of their work on spinal cord injury and sexuality.  They brought this work with them to Michigan, both to the medical students and to the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.  

In 1993 Sandra created a specialist team, founded the innovative University of Michigan Health System Comprehensive Gender Services Program (CGSP), serving as Director for 7 years. She received many acknowledgements from the transgender community and sexology professionals: FanFair Lifetime Appreciation Award, prestigious Fantasia Fair Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award, PRIDE Lifetime Achievement Award , Ann Arbor ,and the honored AASECT Professional Standard of Excellence Award. 

Dr. Sandra Cole was a valued faculty member who could address topics beyond sexuality.  She mentored a medical student weekend wheelchair experience with a general discussion of life with a disability.  She was a warm, caring person, someone who was used to sharing the most intimate details of people’s lives, and would put them at complete ease while doing so. Sandra Cole retired in 2000, but still interacted with the department, entertaining the residents on Ted Cole day with stories of her career.  She moved to Colorado in 2016 and passed away there.  She and her many contributions will be greatly missed.