Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti: big dreams for a little hospital

Canadian surgeon Lucille Teasdale first met Italian doctor Piero Corti at Saint Justine’s hospital in Montréal in 1955 while completing an internship. Both doctors dreamed of providing medical assistance to people in developing nations and Piero was immediately drawn to Lucille’s dedication to her profession. After parting ways, Piero and Lucille reconnected in Marseille, France. There, Piero shared his dream of developing a small clinic in Uganda into a world-class hospital, eventually convincing Lucille to join him. The couple were married in Gulu, Uganda in 1961 and worked together at St. Mary’s-Hospital Lacor for 35 years. In that time, the hospital went from a small outpatient unit with 40 beds to a 450-bed facility treating 150,000 patients per year before Lucille passed away in 1996 from AIDS, which she contracted from operating on one of her patients.

A colour photograph showing four people standing outdoors. Three are in traditional Ugandan dress while another is in western clothing.

Lucille greeted by locals upon arrival in Gulu, Uganda (MIKAN 4843368)

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Lucille and Piero’s wedding in December 1961 (MIKAN 4843366)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti fonds which contains correspondence, photographs, videos and awards. These records provide insight into the daily lives of these two doctors and their staff as they strove to achieve their dreams. In the letters contained within this collection, we see Piero’s constant efforts to receive funding from donors, while the photographs show the expansion of the hospital over time. The collection of awards they received, including the Order of Canada, demonstrates the recognition that Lucille and Piero received from the international community for their humanitarian efforts.

The dangers of living in Uganda during civil unrest are apparent in the letters to concerned family and friends updating them on the war and conditions at the hospital along with notices to local authorities of stolen property and attacks by rebel forces. There is also a copy of the note from the Uganda People’s Democratic Army demanding medical supplies after they had kidnapped a Lacor hospital nurse. Although the hospital tried to remain open throughout the war, services became limited due to growing safety concerns. Despite these hardships, Lucille and Piero remained committed to their dream, refusing to leave Uganda when the country was in such desperate need of medical professionals.

A colour photograph showing three people in an operating room. Two appear to be doctors, while the third is a child observing them.

Dominique Corti observing her mother Lucille and an unidentified doctor perform surgery (MIKAN 4843370)

To uncover the story of Lacor hospital and the incredible dream of Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti, please visit LAC’s catalogue for a complete description of the fonds. The doctors’ legacy lives on through the continued operation of the Lacor Hospital in Gulu supported by the Teasdale-Corti Foundation founded by the couple in 1995.

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