Special to the AmNews

It is too late to attend the memorial service for Dr. Gene-Ann Polk Horne that occurred Jan. 31, but it is never too late to honor and pay tribute to a doctor who was unstinting in her dedication to her clients and to her community.

For the multitude who experienced her gentle care and expertise, it comes as no surprise that we salute her glorious stay among us. The only surprise was her passing Jan. 3, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was 88 and lived in Lafayette Hill, Pa.

Horne may have lived in Pennsylvania, but as a longtime director of Pediatrics & Ambulatory Care at Harlem Hospital and as a professor emerita of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, her reputation was one of indisputable renown in New York City.

We learned a lot about Horne’s early years from her family after the memorial service. A package of historic photos showed her coming of age with her three sisters, all of whom would go on to become very successful in their own careers. Born Oct. 3, 1926, in Roselle, N.J., she was the daughter of Dr. Charles Carrington Polk and Olive Bond Polk.

Upon graduation from Roselle’s Abraham Clark High School, where she distinguished herself, she attended Howard University to pursue her passion in classical music, excelling there as a cellist in the college orchestra. But after transferring to Oberlin College, her love for music had to be shared with her interest in medicine, something she came by honestly from her father.

Her academic performance at Oberlin was exceptional, and she was accepted at Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, now part of Drexel University College of Medicine, where she earned her medical degree. Medicine and marriage blended perfectly at that time, when she wed Edwin C. Horne.

Shortly thereafter, the couple arrived in Harlem—she with an internship at Sydenham Hospital and he with a residency in oral surgery at Harlem Hospital.

A loving portrait of Polk arrived at the paper, and it’s pointless to attempt to exceed what it reveals about her and her eminent practice.

“Throughout her medical career, Dr. Polk embraced a philosophy of caring and compassion for the needs of children,” the notice related. “Her dedication to the field of pediatrics would greatly enrich the lives of her fellow colleagues, patients and the Harlem community that she served for over 40 years. She enjoyed a private practice in Englewood, N.J., and worked in her father’s practice as well.

“Later, while working in pediatrics at Harlem Hospital, Dr. Polk earned a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University in 1968. Soon after, she was named the director of pediatric ambulatory care at Harlem Hospital, where she played an essential role in the development of neonatal service and pediatric outpatient services, as well as providing administrative and educational leadership that helped establish the hospital’s reputation as a premier institution in the promotion of the health and wellness of children. Many of the protocols that Dr. Polk put in place are still being used across the country today as caring, compassionate and effective models of primary care.”

In 1962, her outstanding work and commitment were rewarded when she was made the first professor of clinical pediatrics of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. Again, the notice from her family details her remarkable career. “Her expansive medical career included the following appointments: resident and then attending pediatrician (’53-’68); first Harlem Hospital Center pediatrician appointed to a Columbia University Affiliation (’62); director of Pediatric Ambulatory Care (’68-’75); director of Pediatrics (’75-’78); director of Ambulatory Care Services (’78-’94); and chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Medical Board at Harlem Hospital Center (’88-’94).

Because of her extraordinary community service, Polk has received countless honors and commendations from national organizations, including the North Jersey Medical Society, the Harlem Hospital Auxiliary, the Friends of Harlem Hospital Center Second Century Award, the Barristers Wives of New York, the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society, and proclamations in 1987 and 1993 from the president of the borough of Manhattan, and New York City Mayor David Dinkins.”

There isn’t space here to cite all of her work with organizations and institutions, which is endless, but it includes her tireless affiliation with her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha; her church membership, particularly at Messiah United Methodist Church in Lafayette Hill, Pa.; and, as her husband, noted, her “quiet feminism.”

She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Dr. Edwin Clay Horne; her son, Edwin Christian Horne; her daughter, Carol Horne Penn; son-in-law, Kenneth D. Penn; granddaughters, Jeanne Nicole Penn and Jessica Anise Penn; sisters, Barbara Lee Polk Riley and Josephine Polk Matthews; nieces, Barbara Joann Pryor, Karen Riley and Allison Matthews Marino; nephews, Charles Carrington Pryor, Howard Polk Pryor, Roger Wade Pryor, George Riley, Glenn Riley, and John Roger Matthews; and numerous extended family members and friends who will greatly miss her warmth and grace.

Much of her legacy can be found in the archives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Her memorial service was held Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Galilee United Methodist Church in Englewood, N.J. A private funeral service was held for the immediate family.