The TANA/CRNA community is relatively small but connected in many ways. As such, the loss of any member in our group is difficult. While we mourn any loss, the depth to which it impacts us as an association is often due to history. Today, we are dealing with history that has a lot of reach.
I am writing to share the sad news that our dear friend and colleague, Patty Cornwell, CRNA, passed away on Saturday, August 28. Patty has left an indelible impression on family, friends, TANA, her profession, and the thousands of patients she served. Members of TANA leadership over the last 45+ years understand this loss without explanation. For those of you who are not as familiar, join us for a moment as we reflect.
A little over six months ago, TANA sent out a press release announcing the creation of the Patty Cornwell Stewardship and Advocacy Scholarship. In that February release, I said, “Throughout her career, Patty was a shining example for all nurse anesthetists on how to provide high-quality, compassionate, patient-centered care. As a dedicated association member, Patty worked tirelessly to strengthen TANA and to advance and protect nurse anesthesia practice. She truly has been a difference-maker for our profession.”
Over the years, many CRNAs have stepped forward to lead, but few with the passion, resolve, or longevity of Patty. Even as recently as two weeks ago, Patty remained in that active type of role for TANA as our Practice Consultant. Very much involved in conference calls, she had the ability to make her opinion know with very few words.
TANA Executive Director, Lisa Bowler, who worked closely with Patty for many years, perfectly captured how so many feel about Patty in the following poignant message: “All of us at the TANA office have had the privilege of working with Patty for the last 20 years and I have never met a more generous person who gave of her time and knowledge to anyone in need. She had a quick wit, and a sharp sense of humor. With a mind like a steel trap, there is no one who has had a better knowledge of Tennessee CRNA history, legislative facts and hard-fought wins for practice rights than Patty. She never missed sending a holiday, birthday or thank-you note to any of her friends and colleagues. Patty will forever be missed.”
After graduating from Middle Tennessee School of Nurse Anesthesia, Patty went on to serve on every single TANA committee—including president of the Board of Directors three times. She also served as TANA’s executive director, lobbyist, and federal political director at various points in her career. At the national level, Patty served on numerous AANA committees, is an AANA Foundation Friend for Life, and in 2010 received the prestigious Ira P. Gunn Award for Outstanding Professional Advocacy from the national association. In 2015, TANA established the Patty Cornwell Practitioner of the Year Award which is presented annually to a deserving TANA CRNA in recognition of Patty’s exemplary career in nurse anesthesia.
Just a few weeks ago, Mila Devineni, an SRNA in the UTHSC College of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia Option and president of the Tennessee Association of Student Nurse Anesthetists at the time, became the first recipient of the Patty Cornwell Stewardship and Advocacy Scholarship. She expressed her feelings about being selected in this way: “Patty Cornwell is an inspirational woman and a force to be reckoned with. She is a pillar in our community and a symbol of what lifelong advocacy looks like. To be given an award in her name is such an amazing compliment.”
While our association mourns the loss of a CRNA, we also celebrate the life of a very special friend and colleague.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, September 1, 2021, from 10 a.m. until the start of the funeral services at 2 p.m. Both will take place at Harwood & Strode Funeral Home in Scottsville, KY, with the burial to follow at Crescent Hill Cemetery in Scottsville. In lieu of sending flowers, please consider celebrating Patty’s life and honoring her memory by donating to the Patty Cornwell Stewardship and Advocacy Scholarship via the AANA Foundation at igfn.us/form/nX6TEA. Donations can also be made at the funeral home.
Vic Martin, MBA, CRNA, APN