Aunt Ida

“First ponder, then dare. Know your facts. Count the cost. 
Money is not the important thing. 
What you are building is not a medical school.
It is the Kingdom of God. 
Don’t err on the side of being too small."
- Ida Scudder

Today is Founder's Day - the 122nd birth anniversary of our founder, Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder

'Aunt Ida', as Dr. Ida Scudder was fondly called, was born in Ranipet, Tamil Nadu on 9th Decemeber, 1870 and passed away on 24th May, 1960, in Kodaikanal. To this day, she is remembered with great affection by the staff, students and alumni of CMC Vellore and the citizens of Vellore. 

Her passionate concern for the women of India sprang from the night she was begged by a Brahmin gentleman to come to save his young wife who was struggling in childbirth. Then only a teenager with no medical training, she could offer no help – but the man refused to allow her doctor father to come near his wife: “it would be better that she died than be seen by a man”. On that same night, two other men came to her parents’ bungalow with the exact same request, and departed with the same sad response. The next morning she was shocked to learn that all three mothers and their babies had died – all for want of a female doctor. She gave up all thoughts of marriage and a comfortable life in the USA, and instead threw herself into medical training, returning to India as a qualified doctor in the year 1900. 

Her primary focus in those early years was women and children. She started with a tiny clinic: just one bed with a window through which medicines were dispensed. In the year 1902 she opened the 40-bedded Mary Taber Schell Memorial Hospital in Vellore. In the next year, with a small band of dedicated helpers, she saw over six thousand patients and conducted 40 surgical operations. She did not neglect the rural population, but would take out bullock carts, carrying nurses and medicines, and hold 'roadside clinics' at the nearby villages.

The funds to build the first small hospital were donated by a New York banker, Mr. Schell, in memory of his late wife Mary. He actually gave Ida Scudder more money than she asked for because he wanted it, he said, to be a “very good hospital”. This concept of not settling for “good enough” but striving for excellence was one of the hallmarks of Aunt Ida’s life, and of the institution she founded. CMC has always tried to be the very best it can be, sending its staff for higher studies at leading institutions around the world, and investing in the latest medical technology.