Alumni Column – The History of Community Memorial Hospital

Lee Woltman '65

Several years ago, Colgate quarterback Tom McCune took a wicked hit while diving into the end zone. After the touchdown, he threw up blood on the sideline and was rushed to Community Memorial Hospital. Before the game was over, his spleen had been removed and he was out of danger.

Most sports injuries are less dramatic. But for someone who has torn an ACL or broken a bone, it is a comfort that Community Memorial is just minutes away. The injured are not the only ones who benefit from the close proximity to campus; last December, a number of Colgate students were hospitalized with the flu. Fortunately, Community Memorial could conveniently treat these patients. Many more take advantage of the various services available at the hospital. Radiology, including CT scans and MRIs, laboratories and physical therapy are all nearby.

I doubt that a single Colgate student chooses to attend the University due to Community Memorial Hospital; however, if students need hospital care, they will find that there is a first class hospital contiguous to campus.

This was not always the case.Until 1952, students and area residents alike who needed hospital care had to travel 25 to 50 miles. Winter travel was often treacherous and even under the best conditions, the simplest cases took a half a day or more.

As early as 1927, residents organized the Hamilton Hospital Corporation in hopes of erecting a hospital to minister the needs of area students and residents.But the stock market crash in 1929, the Great Depression, and finally World War II delayed such plans.

Then, in the mid-1940s, Colgate President Everett Case spearheaded an effort to build a hospital in Hamilton.Legendary Raider football coach, Andy Kerr, was vice chairman of the fundraising drive and later became the first chairman of the hospital board. Colgate donated the land on which the hospital stands and also contributed one third of the original cost.

This close association between the university and hospital continues today: Director of Student Health Services Dr. Merrill Miller is a member of the hospital medical staff. Renowned orthopedic surgeon and former Chief of Surgery Dr. Ivan Gowan graduated from Colgate in 1974. He provides medical coverage for Raider teams.Director of the Presidents’ Club Patty Caprio andEnglish Professor Jane Pinchin are both members of the hospital’s Board of Directors. Community Memorial provides opportunities for students to observe physicians and healthcare providers in action. When Community Memorial wanted to create a junior volunteer program for high school students interested in healthcare, Colgate students, working through the Upstate Institute, helped organize the program and recruited from area high schools. Community Memorial Hospital is a proud corporate sponsor of Colgate athletics.Several members of the Colgate community volunteer their time and talent to the hospital and the University remains a leading benefactor. Providing quality healthcare close to home, and campus, really is a group effort.

Community Memorial Hospital is recognized statewide as a model rural healthcare system ensuring there is primary care for nearly 45,000 people in 27 Central New York communities and that includes students.

Adequate medical care is one of the hot button issues of our time, but as most students know, Community Memorial tries especially hard to serve the university and city best.That is why, should you ever find yourself in need of medical attention here in Hamilton, you will appreciate the enormous efforts of all who over the years have worked so hard to make certain the care you receive is considerably more than adequate. It is, in fact, exceptional.