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Jacqueline Cornish

Dr Jacqueline Cornish was born in July 1948 - three days after the NHS - so she is truly one of the original Bevan Babes. Her father was in the Admiralty so she spent much of her childhood growing up in different Naval Bases throughout the UK, but she was educated predominantly at La Sainte Union Convent Bath, before going to the University of Bristol Medical School where she qualified as a doctor in 1972.JC Graduation Edit

She did not come from a medical family, but was driven from an early age to pursue a career in Medicine. Her Mediterranean mother was bright and vivacious, and "dressed me in frills and flounces, instilling in me that presentation was everything", whilst her father said "You get yourself a career my girl, it will never let you down - so I did and it hasn't!"

She applied to study Medicine at a time when women applicants were still in small numbers - Bristol thought they were pretty avant garde to admit 20 women alongside the 100 men. Her first two houses jobs were in the BRI - the Clinical Dean's Medical job and Professorial Surgical job - she was the first woman to be accepted to that post.

"We worked 120 hours a week at that stage, there were no locums, no study leave, and you were lucky is you were able to take your fulll holiday, but I loved it, there was such a camaraderie, and we were unified by an almost fierce protection of our patients."

She looks back on her career now in it's three phases and reflects on  how much it has meant to her. "One of the greatest privileges of my life has been the front-line care of very sick children with cancer or leukaemia, as a member of a skilled multidisciplinary team, all of us totally committed to delivering the best and safest care to the child and their families, with the best possible outcomes."

Jacqueline and colleagues opened a Stem Cell Transplant Unit at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children in 1986 which grew over the years to become Nationally and internationally recognised as a centre of excellence. They were pioneering in the development of an Alternative Donor Transplant Programme, and their outcomes in the transplant of children with high risk acute lymphoblastic leukaemia using unrelated donors set a gold standard which has not been surpassed. The Unit now transplants children not only for haematological malignancy but also for Inborn Errors of Metabolism and Bone Marrow Failure syndromes with referrals from many areas in England, Northern Ireland and South Wales, and from overseas as well.

In parallel with her professional career, where she enjoyed working with many European and North American colleagues who were all united by the common drive to improve outcomes for children with Leukaemia through Stem Cell Transplant, Jacqueline embarked on what would become 20 years experience of Medical Management at UH Bristol.

"One of the greatest achievements when I was Head of Division of Women's and Children's Services was the transfer of Acute Paediatrics from what was then Southmead Hospital, followed by the move of Paediatric Burns, Plastic Surgery and Neurosurgery from Frenchay Hospital. These moves brought all of children's in-patient  services on to one site in the centre of Bristol with considerable advantage to all children in Bristol. 

"This move was many years in the planning and execution and was not without its challenges but was such a good thing to have done and patients, families and staff have benefitted from having all skills and services on one site".

In 2013 Jacqueline was appointed to a post working for NHS England - National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Transition to Adulthood. "Over the past 5 years of my National role I have worked with colleagues across the NHS and other Arm's Length Bodies, the DHSC and other Government Departments, Royal Colleges, the Voluntary Sector and many Organisations, working towards improved outcomes for Children. My brief covers all children, all ages, mental and physical health, from the premature baby through to safe transition to adult services - so it is quite extensive! I have been able to involve many of my Bristol management and clinical  colleagues in national work which not only showcases their considerable expertise but also gives them some experience of working at a national level".

JC Now Edit

Jacqueline was awarded an OBE in 2003 for Services to Paediatric Medicine, and was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Bristol in 2014. She now advises the Children's Hospital once a week whilst spending the rest of her time in London.

In her personal life, Jacqueline has been married since 1975 to Olivier, a French Mauritian and formerly aero engineer with Rolls Royce in Bristol. They have two sons and three grandchildren. One son is a Junior Doctor Training in Anesthetics  and the other a lawyer in Aviation Finance, married to a Junior Doctor trainee in Infectious Disease, so the family tradition in Medicine is now firmly established. 

Jacqueline has achieved a lot in her career and is clearly proud that she has been able to contribute in many areas, the greatest of these being patient care. She is a staunch supporter of the NHS, believing it to be without parallel when compared with any other health system in the world. 

"Although it is not perfect in terms of access, capacity and affordability as technology and innovation explode, new drugs are developed and treatment options increase, nonetheless it's a great service and I feel such a strong commitment to a huge structure which is now 70 years old and has endured and emerged triumphant through so many challenges. Whilst we are never complacent and know where we must do better, yet still there is generally great pride in the NHS, and to me - working in the NHS has given me such joy and personal satisfaction, and hope for an even brighter future."