Equinn William Munnell, M.D.

Equinn William Munnell


Dr. Equinn William Munnell died on January 21st at 90 years old. Teaching and working with residents was very important to him. I first met Dr. Munnell in 1971 when I became a Sloane Resident. He was an attending with a large private practice, practicing both obstetrics and gynecology, as well as the co-director of the gynecologic oncology service at the Presbyterian Hospital and the co-director of the gynecology service at the Francis Delafield Hospital. These were the days before sub-specialization and formal divisions, and Dr. Munnell gave his time to supervise the residents in caring for all gynecologic oncology patients. He was an experienced surgeon who spent four years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center after finishing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Bellevue Hospital. He took great pride in teaching and doing the classic radical Wertheim hysterectomy and other radical surgery with residents. For the residents, operating with Dr. Munnell was a daunting experience since he was both demanding and quite impatient. As his daughter said: "He was a very serious person and a worrier!!" But she also proudly characterized him as an early champion of women's rights. He was an internationally recognized expert in ovarian cancer with numerous publications. His patients came from all over the world to see him and many of them bore famous names. His legacy was imparting a culture of high standards, curiosity and questioning information to decades of residents who became national leaders.

There was another side of Dr. Munnell that residents all aspired to achieve. Dr. Munnell and his family lived in a duplex at 1 Lexington Avenue, right on Gramercy Park and spent weekends and summers in Southport, Connecticut. An invitation for dinner was always a special event for both residents and fellow attendings. He met his wife Frances Clark, the daughter of Southern Presbyterian Missionaries, when he was a student at Amherst and went to pick up a date at Mount Holyoke. Frances came down to tell Equinn that her roommate, his date, was not ready. The rest is history, a 65-year marriage!! They lived a very elegant New York Society Life, perhaps best noted by their fondness of ballroom dancing, especially with him in a top-hat and tails. They also frequented the ballet and opera, and traveled extensively. He enjoyed reading, sailing and painting landscapes. They had two daughters, Katherine Munnell Smith and Elizabeth Hamilton Munnell, and a son, Thomas Clark Munnell. He loved telling his 7 grandchildren stories of Tom Mix and the Cavalry, or just prodding them about their careers and future. We can remember Dr. Munnell for doing it all: A busy practice for over 40 years, a fondly remembered teacher, a leader in our specialty, a loving husband, father and grandfather, and an elegant bon-vivant.

Submitted by Eberhard Mueller-Heubach, M.D.

Return to In Memoriam