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Tribute to Sheila Cornwall

It was with sadness that we heard late last month of the death of Sheila Cornwall. Sheila had worked for many years as the technical head of the Canadian Red Cross Society Blood Transfusion Service (CRCS-BTS) National Reference Laboratory (NRL) when it was located in Toronto on Wellesley St.  At that time the NRL held the enviable position as an International Centre for Antibody Investigation, sharing cases with many of the great investigators of the day – Laurie Marsh, Patricia Tippet, Carolyn Giles, Peter Issitt, John Moulds, John Judd, George Garratty and many other European and N. American Laboratories.  With the support and direction of the late Dr BPL (Paddy) Moore, NRL was a hub for serological investigations and research for Canada and the world. Sheila also oversaw the ‘Automation’ and ‘Reagent Preparation’ Labs. Some of the very first automated systems for blood bank were developed here and CRCS-BTS Centres across Canada received reagents prepared at this site.

Sheila was part of the strong blood transfusion community in Southern Ontario at the time.  She strongly supported the work of LPTP and NRL was the main reference laboratory for them while she was there.  

Not only was Sheila a great colleague and serologist she cared deeply for those she worked with, going out of her way to help them grow in their field and helping them to obtain the necessary training and registration to move onward and upward in their careers.

When the Canadian Red Cross moved its head office to Ottawa in the mid 80's, Sheila chose not to relocate.  Instead, she headed up the blood transfusion laboratory at the Belleville hospital, remaining part of the close knit blood transfusion community, and where she is remembered by colleagues as a wonderful mentor.

During her entire career Sheila was willing to share her knowledge and was always available to speak at conferences and seminars as well as one-on-one mentoring. Her career was not a ‘job’ to Sheila, rather it was a ‘vocation’, for her patients she was the unknown advocate, to her colleagues a mentor, and to those who worked closely with her a dear friend. It is comforting to know that her commitment to duty and caring will live on in those who were fortunate to have worked with and been taught, by her.

Submitted by:
Ray Berger


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