The year 1835 has a special bearing in the history of medical education in India. Two very prestigious and respected medical colleges of India, Calcutta Medical College, Kolkata and Madras Medical College, Chennai admitted students for the first time in 1835. The Calcutta Medical College was not only the first institute to teach modern medicine in India but also in Asia. In Mumbai, the first medical college was named after Sir Robert Grant, then Governor of Mumbai and the college started functioning in 1845. Agra Medical School was established in 1854 along side Thompson Hospital, this is today known as Sarojini Naidu Medical College & Hospital.
Previously in 1823, a medical college called the Ecole de Medicine de Pondicherry was established by the French government in Pondicherry. Later, in November, 1956 it was taken over by the Government of India, in the wake of the ‘de facto’ transfer of Pondicherry and rechristened as Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER).
Other reputed medical schools of the era were the Auxiliary Royapuram Medical School, Chennai (1877) and The King Edward Medical School, Indore (1878). Stanley Medical School, Chennai named after Sir Frederick Stanley started working from March 27, 1917. Its predecessor was known as Royapuram School (1913). The credit of establishing the first dental college in India goes to Dr. Rafuddin Ahmed who founded the college in Calcutta in 1928 from his own earning and real hard work.
King George’s Medical College and Hospital was opened to the patients in October 1911, though the idea to have a medical college in Lucknow was first floated in 1870 by the Maharaja of Vijanagaram. One of the most beautiful building of the time King George’s Medical College was designed by Sir Swinton Jacob and the features were designed in the Indo-Saracenic style in keeping with royal buildings of this capital of Oudh and with the Imambara or Tomb of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah, which stands immediately besides the College and which dates back to 1784.
The Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College and the King Edward Memorial Hospital arose as a counter to British managed hospitals in 1926. The most important condition of the endowment was that all members of the teaching faculties should be well qualified Indians. Dr. Jivraj Mehta was its first dean. Prince Of Wales Medical College was founded in the year 1925 in Patna, with 35 students on the rolls.
Some of the old college buildings still exist with beautiful murals and architecture, depicting an old world charm. Its a pity they are not preserved and are making way for more modern buildings. The image is from Madras Medical College in 1886.
Medical Education and women
The participation of women in medicine started as early as 1880 when Fanny Butler became the first British woman to practice medicine in India. She served as a member of the Church of England (Zenana Missionary Society) and carried out pioneering work among Indian women. The next milestone came in 1885 when the Countess of Duffertin’s Fund was created to bring women doctors to India and to open women’s hospitals and wards, and to train Indian women in Medicine.
Before this, Madras Medical College had already become a trendsetter and admitted women students for the first time in India in 1875, when only one institution in US was open for women and none was opened in Europe. Soon after Calcutta Medical College started admitting women in 1885 and in 1887 Grant Medical College, Mumbai followed the suite.
Madras Medical College had the privilege of producing four fully trained women doctors in 1878. They were Mary Scharleib, D White, D Mitchell and B Beate. Interestingly, a special scholarship of Rs 20 was awarded to every woman candidate for her five years’ studies in Medical College.
Subsequently, Dr. Edith Mary Brown and her colleagues started the North Indian School of Medicine for Christian Women in 1894, which today is known as Christian Medical College, Ludhiana. Special mention is due to Christian Medical College, Vellore, which was started in 1900 by Ida Scudder as a one bed Clinic. Later, she started a school for compounders (1903), a school for nurses (1909) and finally a medical school for women in 1918. One of the first graduates from Cornell Medical School, USA, Scudder, set up the institute in India as a response to the health needs of the local people, particularly women and children, which today is one of the most well-known hospitals in India.
Lady Willingdon Medical School for Women founded in 1923 in Chennai and Lady Harding Medical College, Delhi, founded in 1916 are among the oldest women’s medical college in the country.
Historically, in 1907, the Association of Medical Women in India was founded under the leadership of Dr. Annetie Benson of the Cama & Albless Hospital in Mumbai. In 1938, the first All-India Conference of Medical Women convened at Delhi — the principal subjects addressed included anemia and eclampsia.
Women were very progressive in the field of medicine in pre-independent India. Sadly the momentum did not continue post-Independence.