Until 1948, it was the only college in India to offer post-graduate degree in gynaecology

The first woman student established the Kasturba Hospital for Women in Triplicane

Records show that the college and the hospital were the first to be set up by the British in India

CHENNAI: The Madras Medical College (MMC), to which the Government General Hospital is attached, will formally launch its 175th anniversary celebrations on Monday.

The college, set up to teach the allopathic system medicine, came up nearly three centuries after the European system of medicine reached the Indian shores in the 1500s through the Portuguese. The hospital was established in 1664 to treat British soldiers.

A century later, the Europeans, Eurasians and Indians were being taught the Western method of diagnosis and treatment; and trained personnel were posted to dispensaries across the district to assist qualified doctors.

D. Mortimer, who was appointed as Superintendent of the Hospital in 1827, began teaching students in his home. Amid much opposition, the Madras Medical School was established following a government order issued on February 2, 1835. Classes began on July 1 the same year with just eight students.

By 1850, the college had instituted gold medals for outstanding students. One of the medals was called the Cunniah Chetty Prize. The first woman student, a British, who was admitted in 1878, was instrumental in establishing the Kasturba Hospital for Women in Triplicane.

R. Chinna Thambi, medical officer at the Tondiarpet Peripheral hospital, who is researching for a book on the MMC, says records show that the college and the hospital were the first to be set up by the British in India.

Until 1948, the MMC was the only college in the country to offer a post-graduate degree in gynaecology. In 1957, it introduced a quota system, reserving medical seats on the basis of religion.

Given its distinguished place in history, the alumni and those who have served at the hospital want improvement. “We want the Central Government to accord MMC the status the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, enjoys.

Better status sought

The Centre could provide the financial support to upgrade the hospital.

But the college and the hospital should remain under the purview of the State government,” says M. Arutpitchai Narayanan, MMC Alumni Association’s secretary.

“A majority of those who formed the committee constituted in 1950 to set up AIIMS were from Chennai. So why not improve the MMC,” asksDr. Chinna Thambi, who served at Government General Hospital sometime ago.