John Kornelson | Family man and Harley fan

The human body is a fascinating machine, while we often think how well it serves us during our lifetime; we know it still has a lot of use after death. That’s where John Kornelson steps in.

Author

Kelly Johnston, Cumming School of Medicine

The human body is a fascinating machine, while we often think how well it serves us during our lifetime; we know it still has a lot of use after death. That’s where John Kornelson steps in. John is the administrator of the University of Calgary’s Body Donation Program at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). The program allows someone to donate his or her body for the purpose of medical education.

“I help families deal with their loved ones decision. It can be hard for them.”

John says some families do not even know their loved one has donated their body.

“One of the things I tell the families, is this a great gift people give, the individual no longer needs their body and it continues to provide a good service. Once they learn their parent’s donation will help train future doctors, or help with research to improve medical treatments, the family often feels much better.” 

John took an early interest in a career in funeral services. At the age of 17, John built caskets. From there he became a funeral director for several years, and then worked at the Foothills Medical Centre, as a pathology technician, assisting with autopsies. John says those experiences help him in his role at CSM where he manages the lab and coordinates the teaching and resources for instructors and students.

 “I had my eye on a job here for a long time; I started looking for opportunities at the medical school in 1983, and became part of the team in 1999.”

John says many people who work for the Body Donation Program are interested in pursuing medical careers. A recent example is Michelle Hucul (nee Gauer) who is now a medical student at CSM. John says the experience she gained at work became a stepping-stone to the MD program.

“I really enjoy working for the university, there’s so many new and interesting people to meet, there’s a real sense of community here.”

When he leaves the lab look for John on the highway, in his motorhome or on his Harley. John and his wife often ride with a group of three other couples, traveling to various spots around Alberta, Canada and the United States.

Tidbits from John:

Favourite spot for a coffee break? PurEatery - I like seeing all the people and sunlight. Our office is in a remote location; it’s in the bottom corner on the far southeast end of the basement.

Was there another career you considered? No, I’ve never thought of doing anything else. I hear the average person goes through three careers in their lifetime, I feel I’ve done that, my career has been a progression – funeral service, pathology and now here at the medical school.

What advice do you have for CSM in the next 50 years? Keep your presence in the community. I’m impressed with what we do, with the United Way, and research with impact. Also, continue to draw in good students and talented researchers.

Favourite color? I don’t really have one, but my grandchildren say it’s green. I guess if I picked, I’m partial to black and orange, Harley colours.

Family facts? John has four children; one daughter just graduated from medical school.