August 26, 1915
November 22, 1996
blood bank administrator
On the day of the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Bernice Hemphill, whose husband was stationed in Hawaii, rushed to volunteer her services at Honolulu's Queen's Hospital. There she worked feverishly with others to collect and process blood for the wounded. Little did she know that within a few years she would become one of the nation's leading blood bank administrators as well as an internationally recognized authority in her field.
In 1944, Bernice, a trained and licensed bioanalyst, began her long and notable career at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in San Francisco (now Blood Centers of the Pacific). Although she was young and a female (two rarities in the field at that time), Bernice was asked to become the first community-based blood bank's managing director.
Bernice initiated new donor recruitment and statistical reporting methods and quickly started to elicit community support. Eventually, she would travel throughout the country, visiting and assisting blood banks in major cities. Later, as executive director, Bernice expanded Irwin's service area and initiated many new administrative and management practices and led Irwin through more than 40 years of helping to save lives.
In 1948, Bernice co-founded the California Blood Bank System and initiated its reciprocity plan, whereby blood banks could exchange blood and blood credits with each other. This would later come to be called the Blood Bank Clearinghouse Program. And in 1953, Bernice proposed the revolutionary concept to expand the services of the Clearinghouse Program on a national level and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) initiated just such a program.
In 1960, the AABB presented Bernice with the John Elliot Memorial Award, one of its highest accolades for her innovative work in blood banking. In 1975, Bernice was elected president of the AABB. She was the first woman and the first non-physician to hold that distinguished post.
Photo: Courtesy of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).