Miriam Kogan was born in 1919 in Odessa, Ukraine. On June 27, 1941, five days after the outbreak of the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Miriam passed her final exam at the Odessa Medical Institute and on July 2 volunteered to join the Red Army. She served in the field medical service and afterwards was assigned to be a commander of a medical regiment of an infantry division, providing emergency care in close proximity to the front lines. In an interview she gave in 2009 in Odessa to The Blavatnik Archive Foundation Miriam Kogan recalled her service as a young military doctor on the battlefield:
"… I was with my friend Zhenia Lerner, we were the two doctors in our regiment's medical unit and we worked non-stop. We set up our small medical stations for hour or hour and a half time periods and administered emergency care that our regiment needed.… Like when we were positioned within 20-30 meters from a battlefield. We set up in any possible location, once even in a blacksmith shop. There was a blacksmith shop, we covered the inside with sheets, wounded soldiers were brought to us and we administered emergency first aid.… For example, a chest wound, a punctured pleura cavity causing the accumulation of air between the lung and the chest cavity. To enable breathing, we had to close the hole that was letting out the air…. Someone was suffocating we performed tracheotomies, which means that if someone couldn't breathe, we made an incision and inserted a [tracheostomy] tube enabling the wounded [soldier] to breathe…. When arms and legs were torn off, hanging by a thread, we amputated. The volume of work was enormous. First days of war – can you imagine? We had just graduated from the [medical] institute where we received a good education.… But over there [at the front], we became experienced [doctors] probably within two days" (The Blavatik Archive Foundation, UKR056).
In May 1942, during the Red Army's unsuccessful offensive, along with tens of thousands of other Red Army soldiers, Miriam Kogan was surrounded in the Izium-Barvenkovo salient near Kharkov. She was wounded and captured, but eventually managed to escape. She was later awarded the Order of Combat Merit. Miriam Kogan celebrated the end of the war in May 1945 in Odessa, where she was working at a military hospital. After the war she worked in Odessa as a surgeon.