Dr. Connie Myers Guion helped revolutionize outpatient care for the poor in New York City and was instrumental in the development of a new curriculum for training clinicians at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
While she was still in medical school, Connie Myers Guion decided that "things ought to be decent" for patients. As Dr. Guion began practicing medicine in New York in 1917, however, she could see that medical treatment for the city's poorest residents was anything but decent. She eventually revolutionized outpatient care in New York, founding a clinic that greatly improved medical services for poor New Yorkers, a model that was later implemented across the United States. Decades later, her innovative work was honored when the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center that housed her clinic announced the opening of a new outpatient wing called the Connie Guion Building, placing her among the first women to have a medical building named in her honor.
Connie Myers's childhood was spent in rural North Carolina. Born in 1882, she was the ninth of twelve children. When her father died, her mother was left to raise and educate them. After an older sister earned the money to pay for Connie's early schooling, she managed to secure a scholarship to Wellesley College, graduating in 1906. For the next seven years, Connie helped put her two younger sisters through college, working as a chemistry instructor at Vassar College until 1910, then as a professor and head of the chemistry department at Sweet Briar College until 1913. She also continued her own education, studying biochemistry at Cornell University Medical College, receiving an M.A. in 1913 and an M.D. degree four years later, graduating at the top of her class.
In 1918, Dr. Guion began her internship at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Like Emily Dunning Barringer, Connie Guion found herself working twenty-hour hour ambulance shifts, resting only between callsa practice that had endured for over a century. With her characteristic wit and resourcefulness, Guion declared "the century's up!" and set up a new twelve-hour schedule that the Hospital agreed to implement. By the end of her internship, Guion had begun a long career teaching clinical medicine at the Cornell University Weill Medical College.
Poorer patients who visited the Cornell clinic received only the briefest of consultations from over-worked doctors and medical students, rarely seeing the same doctor twice. To improve conditions, Dr. Guion set up the Cornell Pay Clinic in 1922. Offering fixed-fee treatments for working-class patients, the Clinic assigned patients to particular doctors, who spent an initial hour with each patient, then followed the case through their course of treatment. Offering first-rate diagnostic services and expert nurses and social workers, the Clinic opened its doors to huge lines of patients and observers from around the country. The service was so popular that police had to be called out to control the crowds.
By 1929, Connie Guion had been promoted to chief of the Cornell Pay Clinic. When Cornell merged with the New York Hospital in 1932, she became chief of the General Medical Clinic. She also served as assistant, and then associate professor of clinical medicine at Cornell University.
When Dr. Connie Guion was promoted to full professor in 1946, she became the nation's first woman professor of clinical medicine. Dr. Guion continued to lobby for better clinical care and training. At her urging, the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center initiated a new curriculum for fourth year medical students in 1952, mandating that they would treat specific patients for months at a time under supervision, allowing students to check their diagnosis, study the results of therapies, and handle patient management. For this, Guion was the first woman honored with the Cornell Medical Alumni Association Award, among many other awards and honorary degrees.
From 1919 until well into her 80s, Guion also maintained a private practice in New York, spending part of each day making house calls. Connie Myers Guion died in 1971 at the age of 89, and was remembered by patients and colleagues alike for her "common sense, perennial good humor and collection of outlandish hats."