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India: Christian Medical College

Christian Medical College in Vellore India. Photo takenby: Madelon Finkel, PhD

The Christian Medical College (CMC) was founded by Dr. Ida Scudder, the American missionary. The story of Ida Scudder's visionary mission begins in the late 1800's when she was a young American girl reluctantly visiting her medical missionary father, John Scudder, at his post in Tamil Nadu, South India. One fateful night, Ida was asked to help three women from different families struggling in difficult childbirth. Custom prevented their husbands from accepting the help of a male doctor and being without training at that time, Ida herself could do nothing. The next morning she was shocked to learn that each of the three women had died. She believed that it was a calling and a challenge set before her by God to begin a ministry dedicated to the health needs of the people of India, particularly women and children. Consequently, Ida went back to America, entered medical training (practically unheard of for women at that time) and, in 1899, was one of the first women graduates of the Cornell Medical College.

Ida Scudder, founder of CMC Hospital in Vellore, India; Photo accessed 7/1/09 from:

Upon graduation, Ida returned to India and opened a one-bed clinic in Vellore in 1900. Two years later, in 1902, she built a 40-bed hospital, the forerunner of today's 1700-bed medical center. In 1909, she started the School of Nursing, and in 1918, her fondest dream came true with the opening of a medical school for women. (Men were admitted in 1947). With the training of these women as doctors and nurses, Indian women would now begin to have access to health care professionals. In addition to the care of women, Ida Scudder saw the need for bringing health care to the poor, the disabled, and the neglected of India.

The relationship between Weill Cornell and CMC remains strong thanks to the generosity of the Scudder Fund. The Scudder Fund has long endowed the Ida S. Scudder, M.D. 1899 Fellowship to enable one WeillCornell medical student to spend a month at CMC taking a clinical elective of his or her choice. The focus is primarily on primary care and infectious diseases.

Community health workers who partake in cervical cancer prevention and treatment outreach. Photo takenby: Madelon Finkel, PhD

Building on past ties, and moving to expand the relationship from that of a student exchange to one of research collaboration, Dr. Madelon Finkel, Professor of Clinical Public Health and Director of the Office of Global Health Education, was invited to CMC in 2007 to explore how the two faculties and two institutions could work together. With colleagues at CMC, Dr. Finkel has helped to initiate a large cervical cancer screening program in rural Tamil Nadu.

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