“I am full of stories and happy to share,” wrote Alfred Falcone DDS, MD in response to a request for first-hand memories of the opening of Upstate’s downtown and community campus hospitals 50 years ago.
Dr. Falcone, a retired plastic surgeon, has more than 50 years of professional connections with Upstate. He did his residency training at the then-new SUNY Upstate Medical Center from 1951 to 1957 (including two years as a US Air Force flight surgeon). He was a clinical assistant instructor at Upstate for close to 20 years, helped outfit the plastic surgery center at Community, and cared for the first baby born at the then-new Community Hospital.
“I was enjoying an early breakfast on New Year’s Day 1963 when I received a call for a consultation,” remembers Dr. Falcone. “The first baby born at Community Hospital had a cleft lip. She had the repair performed when she was three months old. I did her surgery and provided follow-up care. She was a model patient, and her family was appreciative.”
That first patient, baby Suzanne, and Dr. Falcone have corresponded for decades, and he noted that she is married, has two daughters, and lives in the western United States.
What does Dr. Falcone remember about Community when it opened? “It was a model hospital. Spacious, wide corridors, TVs in every patient room (novel in those days), and a spectrum of bright colors. Like Miami Beach.”
When Dr. Falcone began his private practice in 1957, neither of Upstate’s hospitals had been built. Downtown’s predecessor, the Hospital of the Good Shepherd, was open and the Onondaga Tuberculosis Sanatorium would close in 1959. The sanitorium’s grounds became the site of the Community Hospital.
Dr. Falcone remembers being a surgical resident at the Good Shepherd Hospital on Marshall St.: “There was a rotunda on the eastern side of the building with a circular slide. In case of a fire emergency, the plan was for patients to slide down on mattresses.”
How about the new downtown hospital? “Night and day difference. There were electric doors, nice lobby and patient rooms. Good clinical facilities, supportive staff.”
Dr. Falcone’s childhood home is in the historic Hawley-Green section of Syracuse. He attended Central High School, which he describes as “that beautiful building on the corner of South Salina and East Adams streets.”
What does he say about his decision to raise his family and build his career locally? “Syracuse is ideal.”
Dr. Falcone and his wife have eight children, including plastic surgeon Philip Falcone MD, a 1984 graduate of Upstate’s College of Medicine.