On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was stabbed with a letter opener at a book signing in Harlem. The weapon penetrated deeply into his chest. So great were his wounds and so critical his condition that Dr. King hovered near death as he was rushed to the closest medical facility, Harlem Hospital Center, known even then for its expertise in trauma care. At Harlem, a team of doctors operated on Dr. King, carefully extracting the sharp object, which had come within millimeters of piercing his heart.
The Harlem team, led by Dr. Aubré C. Maynard and Dr. John W.V. Cordice, saved Dr. King’s life, and he was discharged from the hospital 14 days later. He went on, of course, to change history, leading the civil rights movement for nine more years and inspiring a vision of a free and equal America that indelibly changed our lives and times.
Dr. Cordice, who died on December 29, 2013, at the age of 95, continued to live in Harlem and practice medicine for more than 40 years. He was a brilliant clinical practitioner, a wise and thoughtful teacher, and a man of deep and abiding kindness and quiet modesty. It is entirely consistent with his character that many who knew him may well not have known that he was also a part of history.
I met Dr. Cordice several times, and HHC had the privilege of honoring him, notably at the opening of Harlem Hospital’s Mural Pavilion in September 2012. On behalf of the HHC family and especially the community of Harlem Hospital Center, I extend our sympathies to Dr. Cordice’s family and friends, and thank him, one last time, for his noble service.
The photo was taken Sept 2012 at Harlem Hospital. By Michael Lettera/New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.