“…(I) met God face-to-face, and at that time it seemed that He was calling me into this work.”
In 1890, twenty-year-old Ida Sophia Scudder was called to India where her parents served as Reformed Church in America (RCA) missionaries. Her mother was ill and needed her help. Born in Tindivanam, sixty miles south of Chennai, Ida was a third generation Scudder whose missionary family was dedicated to the spiritual and physical health of the people of South India. Ida spent her school years in the U.S. living with relatives and eventually boarding at the Northfield Seminary. As a young woman, her ambition was to stay in the U.S. near her friends, marry and enjoy a life of privilege; but that was not to be. Ida was just 24, living with her parents and nursing her mother back to health, when she witnessed first-hand the suffering of Indian women who had almost no trained female physicians to care for them. Her change of heart is legendary and the story is told and retold to illustrate Ida’s extraordinary response to God’s call.
A Reluctant Servant
Dr. Ida S. Scudder later wrote: “I could not sleep that night – it was too terrible. Within the very touch of my hand were three young girls dying because there was no woman to help them. I spent much of the night in anguish and prayer. My friends were begging me to return to the joyous opportunities of a young girl in America. I went to bed early in the morning after praying much for guidance. I think that was the first time I ever met God face-to-face, and all that time it seemed that He was calling me into this work. Early in the morning I heard the “tom tom” beating in the village and it struck terror in my heart, for it was a death message. I sent our servant and he came back saying that all of them had died during the night. Again I shut myself in my room and thought very seriously about the condition of the Indian women and after much thought and prayer, I went to my father and mother and told them that I must go home and study medicine, and come back to India to help such women.” To hear Ida Scudder tell this story in her own voice, click here. After her epiphany Ida did return to the United States to become a doctor. She was a reluctant servant like many before her; however God gave her the grace to immerse herself in her studies as part of the Cornell Medical College, Class of 1899. As she learned the science of infectious diseases that plagued India, she began anticipating the needs that she could fill. As Dr. Ida prepared to leave for India to train female medical providers, word came from India that a hospital was desperately needed. With the assistance of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) Women’s Auxiliary, she left New York with over $10,000 and a supply of instruments and equipment in order to build the Mary Tabor Schell Hospital (named for her benefactor’s late wife). Within a short period of time the American and British sections of the General Council of the Mission Medical College were allied and fully supportive of the small hospital and fledgling medical school.
A Christian Mission Medical School By and For Women
The impact of women in the missionary hospital movement of the early 1900’s was extraordinary, and indeed the Lord used them to help Ida create her medical college in Vellore. The members of the American Section of the Governing Board of the Mission Medical School for Women were predominantly women from Protestant foreign mission boards and societies. They used their influence and their conviction to raise and invest funds, recruit medical missionaries to staff the new college, and govern every phase of growth that Ida dreamed about. In 1918 as the Medical College was opening, the Board was its governing body, ensuring financial security and Christian integrity. The Christian Medical College in Vellore is still anchored in the Christian faith of Dr. Ida S. Scudder and the people who supported her vision. Formed in the image of Christ’s healing ministry, the hospital, medical, nursing and allied sciences schools are steeped in spirituality and prayer. Among those served few are Christian, but all are welcome and frequent visitors to the chapels throughout CMC; they are surrounded by caregivers anointed in a special ministry. The motto Dr. Ida gave the hospital and medical school remains: “Not to be ministered unto but to minister.” CMC’s mission is to educate and nurture compassionate, knowledgeable and ethically sound healthcare professionals—inspired and dedicated servant leaders with the courage and perseverance to go where the need is. At the Vellore CMC Foundation we maintain a respectful and spiritual atmosphere that is always consistent with the values of Ida Scudder and those who preceded us in this work.