INMED Academic

Vellore Christian Medical College and Hospital



CMC Vellore is one of India’s most prominent medical centers, known for both innovative patient care and research, and for progressive community health initiatives. Many patients have very humble resources, and the Hospital welcomes the opportunity to serve them. Students have a choice of studying a wide variety of medical specialties and can function well using English alone. Accommodations are provided in a new housing complex.

The medical center was founded in 1900 by Ida Scudder and is a model success story in the history of medical missions. The city of Vellore is located in southern India, a region known for trade and agricultural. Visitors can enjoy amazing shopping, hiking, and trips to the coast.


Vellore is a city of 3.5 million, located in the southern province of Tamilnadu, India. Vellore is an ancient agricultural and trading center, surrounded by hills. Today, it is a modern city by Indian standards, with rough and occasionally paved roads, many busses and bicycles, many temples, grocery stores, and many little shops selling fabrics, paper supplies, and jewelry. Smells are strong at times. Agriculture is the main occupation and source of income in this area of Tamilnadu. Most of the wetland agriculture is accomplished using human and animal power.

Vellore is a conservative city, and also known for religious tolerance due in part to the influence of the Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital (VCMCH) in this predominately Hindu community. Seasons are similar to the southern United States, and the summers that last from April through October are very hot. Many Indians do not recommend visitors come during the oppressive heat of summer time.

Become familiar with India’s culture, history and economy by reviewing the Wikipedia India Page Profile. Rich resources for India health information include the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME India Country Profile and the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory India Data.

People come to VCMCH from all over India, though the majority are from the local area, and make a living through agriculture or small businesses. Many are very poor, and most do not speak either of the national languages, Hindi and English. Majority of the patients still live in villages, in brick or mud houses with thatch roof.

All staff at VCMCH speak English. Translation assistance is available for communicating effectively with non-English speaking patients.

Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital is a full-service, state of the art medical care facility. Its services include surgical subspecialties, neonatology, in vitro fertilization, invasive cardiology, bone marrow and kidney transplant, CT and MRI, in addition to mainstream internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics. In 2002, 40,000 inpatients were served, as were some 600,000 outpatients. VCMCH also has a network of smaller hospitals in the area that provide more basic primary and secondary care medical services. Separate facilities around Vellore also specialize in eye care, rehabilitation, leprosy and other specialty care.

The staff includes 500 physicians and 1500 nurses. VCMCH has a strong commitment to education, and 60 new medical students are enrolled each year. Graduate and Ph.D. degree programs are also offered in an active research environment. Additionally, VCMCH trains nurses, therapists, pharmacists, laboratory specialists, and other health professionals.

VCMCH enjoys an amazing history. One eventful night in the late 1800s, Ida Scudder, the young granddaughter of William Carey, was asked to help three young women struggling in difficult childbirth. Without training at that time, she could do nothing. Ida was shocked to learn the next morning that all three women had died. She accepted this as a calling set before her by God to ministry to the health needs of India people. She returned to America and became one of the first women to graduate from Cornell Medical School. Ida started VCMCH in 1900 as a one-bed dispensary, which has now grown to 2000 beds in several campuses.

Dr. Ida S. Scudder founded VCMCH with the motto, “Not to be ministered unto but to minister.” She also embraced a leadership approach that has inspired the institution for the last one hundred years. Scudder wrote, “For CMC Vellore to survive in the long run, it has to be Indian owned, Indian managed, able to meet most of its budget from local funds and be relevant for the changing needs of India”.

The teaching staff at VCMCH tends to be younger in age. They represent all major medical specialties, and many are nationally and internationally recognized authorities in their respective fields. Many of the staff spends about one-third of their time in patient care, one-third in teaching, and one-third in research activities.

The Vellore CMC Rural Health Centre was established in 1954, providing outreach services to 5 villages. Over the years, it has expanded services to the entire geographic region of Kaniyambadi and today includes community-wide efforts to increase literacy, training of community health volunteers, Traditional Birth Attendants and provision of basic preventive and curative services at the village level.

On the forefront of these public health interventions, include efforts to prevent water-borne infections through sanitation and provision of potable water, control dissemination of TB through prompt diagnosis and DOTS treatment, development of micro enterprises for women and provision of rehabilitative care for those suffering from leprosy complications. Students of public health are actively encouraged to participate in the range of interventions, depending upon their particular interests.

The Community Health Nursing department of the College of Nursing offers Community Outreach activities in urban, rural and tribal areas.

Pharmacy services offered are state-of-the-art for India and also synchronous with the standards of care for many wealthier nations. Pharmacy professionals at Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital take their responsibilities well beyond medication acquisition and dispensing. They take a leading role in active surveillance to improve hospital adverse drug event monitoring and are well published in this field.

The College provides formal training in pharmaceutical care leading to an M.D. Pharmacology degree. Visiting students are invited to participate in the full range of services provided, including the particular learning to meet the challenges of providing safe, appropriate care for very low-income individuals and families. Students may also participate in clinical care in the hospital setting as well as in rural clinics and public health initiatives.

The housing complex has dialup Internet access. If a laptop computer is brought, wireless Internet access can occasionally be found.

INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to financially support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they provide opportunity for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.

Travel and Logistics

International flights arrive into the city of Chennai. A driver from VCMCH will meet arriving visitors, though this person may speak little English. Most international flights arrive late at night. Therefore, it is recommended spending the first night at the Chennai YWCA and then driving to VCMC the next day. The trip from Chennai to Vellore requires about three hours.

For current information please visit the India embassy website appropriate for one’s home nationality. United States citizens must acquire visa in advance before entering India, and can obtain current visa information from the website of the India Embassy in Washington, DC. INMED students studying at VCMCH should obtain a “Tourist Visa.”

Mosquitoes are common in Vellore, though malaria is rare. One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information.

Travelers are advised to refer to the United States State Department Website for the most up-to-date nation-specific travel information, and to regularly review Current Travel Advisories.

A remarkable community health experience is available through VCMCH. Learners make supervised home visits in low-income communities, collect health data, and participate in efforts to eliminate disease and disability. This community health program is credited to making remarkable progress in local health outcomes.

For those interested in direct patient care in a hospital setting, please note that this site only allows for observation. INMED, for this reason, recommends learners instead take advantage of community health service experiences, which provide for more hands-on participation.

New housing complex is available for visitors in VCMCH in 2006, with modern hotel-like rooms. Power outages occur periodically. The Johnson House on campus provides meals. Some grocery stores in Vellore carry brand name foods also sold in the US. The campus has a bookstore, and a free bus provides transportation from the campus to the hospital. Visiting students may be paired with host families to enrichen the cultural experience.

Men typically wear long pants or kaki slacks, no shorts. Sandals are worn by most everyone, but not closed toed shoes nor tennis shoes. Men do not wear neckties. Women wear long skirts or slacks with no legs showing at all. Tops should not be form fitting, or a scarf can be worn over a fitted top. Clothes are inexpensive in Vellore, and can be readily bought. Given the environment, clothing becomes dirty quite easily and will need to be washed often.

Free time in Vellore is often spent shopping for silk and fabric, exploring the historic Vellore fort, and hiking the hills outlying the city. The city boasts of a movie theater, church on Sundays, plays on weekends, talent shows, and cricket fields. Some visitors leave on weekends to visit the coasts, or the cities of Bangalore or Chini.

Visitors should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. A carry-on bag should be packed that contains essentials items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Bring clothes appropriate for the weather. While almost anything can be purchased in Vellore, bring a good bug spray and lots of it. Mosquitoes and flies are plentiful, and the local brands are rumored to be suboptimal.

Note: Not all INMED learners post a blog regarding their international service-learning. Only completed blogs are listed:

Kimberly Hall

Beth Grubb

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