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CMCH: a journey worth recalling

punjab Updated: Aug 14, 2013 18:58 IST
Harshraj Singh
Harshraj Singh
Hindustan Times
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It was during the Partition (1947), when Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH), the oldest medical institute of the city, first offered its health services to male patients - mostly injured immigrants from Pakistan. Prior to this, the CMCH was only providing health services to women and children.

Moved by the grim medical services available to pregnant women and children in this part of the world, Dr Edith Mary Brown and her colleagues founded North India School of Medicine for Christian Women in Ludhiana in 1894 that contributed a lot in the field of medical services by training Indian women as midwives to perform save deliveries and to ensure better childcare.

However, the medical missionary work in the city was started by Greenfield sisters - Matha Rose and Kay Greenfield - in 1881 in the city, and Dr Edith Brown joined them only in 1893.

“The condition of health services to women was dismal. When Dr Brown started offering medical assistance to pregnant women, she had to face stiff opposition from people who preferred the deliveries of their women to be conducted by untrained midwives instead of a medical expert, just because she was an English woman. Thus, Dr Brown started training girls/women of Indian origin as midwives,” said 43-year-old Robert Mattu, a resident of old city, whose grandfather had worked with Dr Brown.

“Dr Brown, the founder-principal of the CMCH, shifted to Kashmir in 1942. But when she got to know about the causality inflicted on people by communal clashes on either side of the border during the Partition, she made her way back to Ludhiana to serve the injured.

“Under her guidance, treatment was provided to the injured patients, including women, children and males. My elders used to tell me often about her; our families can't forget her services,” said Mattu, who is a writer.

Dr Brown, who was born in England in 1864, was well informed about the poor health services to women in India; and thus, she decided to serve them for the humanity sake.

With the passage of time, residents of the city also came closer to Dr Brown, whose services made a visible difference in the health of women and children. Despite the British officials' advice to her to leave India during the Second World War, Dr Brown decided to stay here and serve the humanity.

“Nobody can forget the services provided by Dr Brown to our city. Mostly, people of Muslim community were living around the CMCH at the time when Dr Brown came to Ludhiana,” said Dr Kanwal Masih, medical superintendent at CMCH.

“In 1894, six girls had enrolled themselves for the nursing course that marked the launch of the nursing school at the CMCH. By the end of 1894, the school obtained permission from the British India government to conduct nursing school entrance examinations at Lahore. The general nursing programme began in 1941 while MBBS course was started in 1953 at CMCH,” recounted Dr Masih.

The CMCH was started as North Indian School of Medicine for Christian Women, after some time it came to be known as Women's Christian Medical College until in 1952, when it was christened once again as Christian Medical College.

After the Independence, the CMCH produced a number of world-level renowned doctors. More than 2,000 doctors graduated at the CMCH, and most of them are serving in various parts of India and the world.

Residents recount first surgery by Dr Brown
The first case of surgery was operated successfully by Dr Edith Brown in the absence of an operation theatre in the city around 1894. Once during an emergency, Dr Brown was asked to perform a surgery on a woman in labour.

Dr Brown said, “Is there any one here who could help give anesthetic? Then, Emily Pogson, a volunteer came forward and said, “I could try, but you must not let me see the operation.”

Two Indian women offered their help to Dr Brown, but missed the chance to see her performing operation, as they went outside the room during the surgery due to awe and fear. They had not seen any surgery earlier, but the surgery remained successful.

The locals say after the success of the surgery, women started visiting Dr Brown for treatment in large numbers.