History of the Ludhiana Christian Medical College and Hospital
by Steve Hall, Red Bridge UMC, Ludhiana Mission Ambassador
Bindu’s third child was about to be born. In her 20 years life had been hard. Her first baby died at age 17 days. The second, a girl named Greena, was almost two years old before succumbing to diarrhea. The first 2 pregnancies had not been difficult, but this one was different. There were no mid-wives in this rural area south of Ludhiana and certainly no women doctors. Custom prevented male doctors from entering the woman’s section of the home. Something was wrong with the baby and no one knew what to do or could offer direct help.
Born in 1864 to a respected English family, Edith Mary Brown grew up in a strictly disciplined Christian life. She was influenced by a series of events to develop a vision leading her to become a doctor and go to India to share the love and comfort of Jesus Christ, particularly to women. With intense perseverance she studied at the best schools in England and became one of the first female graduates in medicine and surgery.
Edith Brown transitioned from one life to another when she first arrived in India in 1891 at the age of 27. Ludhiana was a large and busy city in the Punjab region of northern India. English and American missionaries had already established a presence there including a very small hospital and nursing school. Here Edith Brown now found herself as the first qualified medical doctor on the staff.
Edith made an immediate impact on community health including its first surgery – primitive by today’s standards. She was even called to attend to a Brahmin cow, sacred to the numerous Hindus. There was great rejoicing, and the doctor’s stature immediately increased in the community, for she had saved the life of a sacred cow
The need for trained assistants and hospital staff was obvious. It was extremely challenging for Edith to manage a clinic, dispensary, and rural visits by herself, much less perform surgery.
In addition to generally limited opportunities for women, the custom of the time did not condone the free association between male and female students. It would be unthinkable to have boys and girls sit together for a lecture on human anatomy and biology. Training Christian girls who could be missionaries as well as medical assistants would be difficult.
A dream took shape and in 1894 the North Indian School of Medicine for Christian Women was started by Dr. Brown and her colleagues with the object of training Indian nationals to serve in the field of medical education and health care services. In 1952 the name was changed to Christian Medical College to enable it to admit men and women for the upgraded MBBS course.
Almost one hundred twenty years later, Ludhiana Christian Medical College and Hospital continues to be a key educational and medical facility in northern India. Over the years many United Methodist missionary doctors, nurses and staff members have served in the College and Hospital. The Missouri Conference Creative Ministries Team and the Festival of Sharing Coordinating Committee are currently urging support for this ministry.
Spread over a patchwork quilt of 46 acres in the heart of the older section of Ludhiana, students, faculty, and staff are a common sight walking in their white coats and Punjabi style student nursing uniforms. After all this time CMC still serves the community – those who can pay, those who can not, as well as those of other faiths – educating desperately needed medical professionals and performing cutting edge research and surgery, all of this in the name of Christ.
Steve Hall, from Red Bridge United Methodist Church, in Kansas City, is one of five Ludhiana Christian Medical College Mission Ambassadors who traveled to India in March 2011. Steve and the other mission ambassadors are available to speak on Sunday morning or to groups during the week. You can contact the Missouri Conference Office of Creative Ministries for more information. (Phone 573-474-7155 / email@example.com)