Dr Jacqueline Cornish OBE FRCP

Doctor of Science Dr Jacqueline Cornish

Wednesday 29 January 2014 at 2.30 pm - Orator: Dr Esther Crawley

Madam Chancellor,

Two important births - of the NHS and of Dr Jackie Cornish - happened a few days apart in July some years ago. Each has had an important and lasting impact on patients – we might conclude that of the two, Dr Cornish is in rather better shape these days.

Jackie qualified as a Doctor from Bristol in 1972 and did many of her early medical jobs in this region.  I am told that when her peers were scruffy junior doctors, struggling with 120 hour weeks and long 89 hour shifts, Jackie was always in control, calm, collected and impossibly glamorous with a love of fashion. Liam Donaldson (our former Chief Medical Officer) describes resuscitating a patient on the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit in the early hours one morning, when he turned around to see a “vision of loveliness” - Jackie Cornish – there to help.

Jackie’s friends and colleagues describe her as: passionate, hard working, honourable, direct, indefatigable, devoted to children, a good listener and loyal. In talking to them I was struck – even disappointed – by the absence of reports that she was badly behaved or did things she might later regret, with the exception of a report that as a medical student she used to be late for lectures. I have to add that this report is from one of our most senior and prestigious medical academics who only knows this as he was late as well!

After specialising in childhood cancer and leukaemia, Jackie was influential in creating the Paediatric Stem Cell Transplant unit at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. This is one of the largest units in Europe and conducts transplants in children from across Europe and the UK. Stem cell transplantation involves working with the sickest children, some of whom will still die despite the most advanced and innovative treatment. As many of you can imagine, leading such a Unit requires incredible discipline, attention to detail and vast emotional reserves. Jackie has made many contributions in this role, of which two of the most important have been working with others to develop new techniques as well as transforming safety and quality by setting national and international standards. Each will have saved many lives.

Jackie did such an incredible job that she then became the Head of the Division of Women’s and Children’s Services at University Hospitals Bristol, where she managed a budget of 85 million, a small task compared to managing 2000 clinicians and 30 services. That alone would be enough for most people, but Jackie also contributed extensively to research programmes. She has an international reputation for her work on multiple national and international working groups and committees to improve Paediatric Stem Cell transplantation. Jackie’s commitment to fashion has continued. She is one of only 9 paediatricians listed in the 2013 Tatler guide to doctors, which comments that “The Louboutin-sporting consultant adores fashion”, whilst also mentioning that she treated X Factor winner Matt Cardle for cancer when he was a child.

Jackie’s services to paediatrics were honoured with an OBE in 2003, but this didn’t stop her wanting to do more. Last year, she became the most powerful paediatrician in the country when appointed the “National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and the Transition to Adulthood”. In this key job she advises the government on improving paediatric health care across all areas of the NHS. She says that her priorities are: “the reduction of child mortality, the programme that allows children to access psychological therapies, oversight of the 12 Maternity and Children's Strategic Clinical Networks, Long Term Conditions, the Congenital Cardiac Review and a big piece of work I am leading on Transition.” Remarkably, she has maintained her clinical work whilst in this position and only relinquished her management responsibilities in Bristol relatively recently. Despite the distractions of Westminster, Jackie has maintained her commitment to Bristol as a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers and a governor of Colston’s Girls’ School.

On a personal level, I hugely admire Jackie. As well as being a mother and a wonderful doctor, she is also a respected academic, a senior political figure in the NHS, an active Citizen of Bristol and is even recommended in the Tatler! Few people ever achieve one of these things in one life, I don’t know of anybody else who has done it all.

Madam Chancellor, I present to you Dr Jacqueline Cornish as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.


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