Doctor Helena Maria Kornella (1897–1992) – the first female urologist in Poland

Tadeusz Zajączkowski



Introduction: The battle for women to receive general acceptance as medical doctors started as late as the 19th century. At the turn of the century, several United States female doctors were already carrying out urological operations. The earliest known history of American women in urology began with women such as Marie B. Werner, who worked in the field despite being prohibited from treating males. The first female chief of urology was Mary E. Childs MacGregor, born in 1928, who championed urology fellowship training for women. She is credited with inspiring Elisabeth Pauline Pickett, the first board certified urologist, in 1966. She was followed thirteen years later by Mary L. Gannon, who was the first female member of the AUA in 1975.

Dora Brücke-Teleky was the first woman to be a member the German Urological Society, in 1911, and in 1920 became a member of newly founded Vienna Urological Society.

Sophia Lisovskaya was the first woman urologist in Russia, and was nominated as the first Professor of Urology at the St. Petersburg Medical Institute in 1923, and held this post till 1952. She was probably the first academic female urologist of the 20th century. Urology is a typical example of a discipline in which male dominance among specialists was overwhelming until the 1970s.

The aim of the study is to present Doctor Helena Maria Kornella, the first female assistant of the Department of Urology in Lwów (today in Lviv, Ukraine), and also to outline her heroic activity and life experiences in the stormy and dramatic years of the Second World War.

Materials: Extensive research was undertaken to collect literature and documents in the United Kingdom and in Polish archives and libraries. Photographs, documents and other materials from the collection of her family were also used to prepare this study.

Biography: Helena Kornella was born on 6th November, 1897 in Jasło. Her father, Michael Kornella, a graduate of Vienna Technical School was an engineer. Helena graduated at the University of Lwów, in 1928. She received her urological training in Lwów. Later on she worked as an assistant in the Department of Internal Medicine in this city. After the Soviet invasion and occupation of Poland in 1940, she, her mother, sister-in-law and her 3-month-old niece were deported into the depths of Kazakhstan. She worked as a physician in Sergiopol, Tehran and Beirut.

In 1950 Dr. Kornella entered Great Britain. She worked professionally throughout her life, until her retirement, aged 70. She died in Essex on 27th May, 1992.

Conclusions: Helena Maria Kornella was the first female resident of the Department of Urology in Lwów. She fought epidemics of typhoid fever and was a foster mother of Polish orphans in Kazakhstan.


history of medicine; urology; women; Lwów; Lemberg; Lviv

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