HISTORY REVISITED: THE ORIGINS OF MEDICAL EDUCATION IN INDIA
Dr. Anushka Reddy Marri, MBBS, RIMS, Adilabad
Dr. Shraddha Murali, MBBS, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal
The year was 1835!
While the foundations for medical education were already set in the western world, we were just getting started. Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India, laid down the foundation for the first institution to teach medicine not only in India but also in the entirety of Asia.
The British East India Company established the Indian Medical Service in the year 1764. This was aimed at providing medical care to the Europeans in British India. On 9th May 1822, the British Government laid down a plan to fill the position of native doctors in the civil and military establishments of the Presidency of Bengal. For this purpose, ‘The Native Medical Institution’ was founded on 21st June 1822.
In 1833, the William Bentick committee proposed a requirement of a medical college to educate the natives. The Committee consisted of Dr. John Grant as President and JCC Sutherland, CE Trevelyan, Thomas Spens, Ram Comul Sen and MJ Bramley as members. The Committee submitted a report on October 20, 1834, recommending that the state should establish a medical college.
On 28th January 1835, Medical college and hospital, Calcutta aka the Calcutta Medical College was established in Kolkata, West Bengal. It is regarded as the first institution in India to impart a systematic education in western medicine. Its purpose was to train native youths aged between 14 and 20, irrespective of caste and creed. The admission of the students started on 20 February 1835. Getting an admission was not easy and around 20 students were given the opportunity among 100 applicants through an entrance exam.
The first batch of students who were eligible to practice medicine and surgery cleared their final exam on 30th October 1838. They consequently represented the first group of Indians qualified in western medicine and were given government appointments as Sub-Assistant Surgeons to the hospitals at Dhaka, Murshidabad, Patna, and Chittagong.
While the college was a pioneer in medical education on a huge scale, it was not the first attempt at pioneering basic medical education in India.
Goa Medical College:
The earliest recorded attempts began before 1691 when Manoel Roiz de Sousa, the “chief physicist”, under the request from Rodrigo da Costa, the Vice-King of India started a ‘Medicine Class of Nova Goa’. In 1801, the chief physicist António José de Miranda e Almeida was given charge of the ‘Medicine and Surgery class’ which survived until 1815.
A solid scaffolding could not be laid until 1842 when the ‘Medical-Surgical school of Goa’ was started which was later transformed into the ‘Medical College’ under the administration of ‘Goa University in the year 1986. The location was changed from Panjim to Bambolim in 1993.
In 1823, the French Government established ‘Ecole de Medicine de Pondicherry’ which was taken over by the Indian Government in the November of 1956, thus rechristening it to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER).
Other Colleges that followed suit:
Closely following the Calcutta Medical College, was the establishment of the Madras Medical College (MMC), established on 2nd February 1835.
In the year 1845, Grant Medical College was founded in Mumbai. The journey began with Surgeon John McLennan as the superintendent of a medical school in South Bombay in 1826. This, unfortunately, failed after 6 years. In 1834 Sir Robert Grant worked on bringing together doctors and surgeons into a medical society while he was the governor of Bombay. The Medical and Physical Society of Bombay came into existence in November 1935 with the help of Charles Morehead. After several negotiations and a lot of research, the college finally opened in May 1845.
A timeline until the 1900s: