Dr Beryl Corner
Today on International Women’s Day we bring you the story of Dr Beryl Corner.
This remarkable woman was not only the founder of Bristol’s first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but her ground-breaking work can still be felt today.
Dr Beryl Corner first qualified at the Royal Free Hospital, London, in the early 1930s – a time when senior posts were largely denied to female doctors and there were very few female consultants. Returning to Bristol in 1937, she was appointed to Bristol Children’s Hospital as both consultant paediatrician and honorary physician to Outpatients.
At this time paediatrics was still emerging as a speciality, distinct from adult medicine, and Dr Corner often faced strong opposition from other doctors who thought her role unnecessary. Regardless, for 10 years she worked as the only consultant paediatrician for the whole of the South West. In 1942 Dr Corner was appointed honorary consultant paediatrician to the Bristol Maternity Hospital on St Michael’s Hill, and in 1946 she founded Bristol’s first special care baby unit – only the second in Britain – at Southmead Hospital.
At this time mortality rates for premature babies was incredibly high, but within a year Dr Corner and her team reduced it to 50%. Today, thanks to her pioneering work in neonatology, it can be as low as 20% for very premature babies.
In 1945 Dr Corner was elected one of the first women members of the British Paediatric Association. She was also a founder member of the Neonatal Society and became an adviser in neonatology to the World Health Organisation. Her work in the care of premature and sick babies, including use of incubators, paved the way for future breakthroughs, and today her legacy can still be seen at the modern Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St Michael’s Hospital.
With the help of you, our Cots for Tots family, we continue to support the life-saving work of the Unit and the legacy of Dr Beryl Corner lives on.