August 26, 2008

The Health Effect

By Ramesh Vinayak; Stephen David


"Care and commitment since 1894 ". This unvarnished motto of the Christian Medical College (CMC) and Hospital in Ludhiana underscores the spirit of the British-era institution, which is the pride of the industrious city.

From the dream of a British girl who sailed to India with only 60, the CMC has traversed a long journey marked by the missionary zeal of its founder Edith Mary Brown. In 1882, she completed her medical training from Cambridge, which qualified her to work in India.

Her dream opportunity came in 1891 when A. Greenfield, head of the Zenana Mission in Ludhiana, sought a woman doctor to take charge of the newly set up Charlotte Hospital. Soon she established an institution to train female doctors. Back in England, she raised 60 for her venture-the North India School of Medicine for Christian Women in 1894, nurturing it until her retirement in 1941.

In 1953, the institute was rechristened as CMC to make men eligible for admission and an MBBS degree was introduced. Spread over 45 acre in the heart of the city, it has grown into a multispeciality, tertiary healthcare institution. Even half a century later, CMC continues to be known as the "Miss Brown Hospital ".

A similar spirit suffuses the CMC, Vellore. Ida Sophia Scudder, from a family of medical missionaries, came to settle in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, in the 1900s. One night, she was asked to help three women struggling with difficult childbirth. The three women did not survive, leaving Ida wishing she could have done more.

Soon she graduated in the first class of women medical students from Cornell University, coming back to India to set up a dispensary by the name of Mary Taber Schell in 1902, which is now known as CMC, Vellore. It is known for its many achievements the country's first heart valve replacement (1961), the first kidney transplant (1971) and the first transeptal carotid stenting in the world in 1996.

It was one of the first Asian hospitals to have been certified by ISO. India's first stem cell translational research centre was set up here in 2005. It proudly claims to a rehabilitation centre for the physically-disabled, with a leprosy research institute, rural healthcare section and a renowned virology research department.

Ramesh Vinayak and Stephen David

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