The Department of Medicine was founded in 1948, pioneered by Dr. P. Kutumbiah, Dr. K.I. Vythilingam and Dr. P. Koshy. The department has a rich history dating back to about 116 years of caring and 68 years of training postgraduate to serve mankind. There are not many post-graduate training programmes in our country that can claim such a heritage.
The department is strongly committed to teaching and research that places the development of medical knowledge and practice into broader social and cultural contexts of India. In recent years, the field of medicine has undergone an important transformation. Although the study of the development of scientific and medical knowledge remains crucial to the field, the changing dynamic nature of scientific and medical practices, the experiences of health and illness, as well as the history of health policies have modified the department over the years and are strongly reflected in the research and teaching aspects of the program.
Alka Ganesh, Over the last few years itself, Intensive care, Infectious Diseases, Geriatrics, Rheumatology and Toxicology have developed within the department and have found their own paths to develop even further. This department was built on the ‘shoulders of giants’ who rightfully accepted the call to serve in this institution. Pioneers such as Kutumbiah, Vythilingam and P.Koshy strived to live up to the institution's ideals reiterated in its motto: “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister” and played a major role in the establishment of the unique ethos of the hospital where the patient's interests override all others. There are several other torchbearers who have not only kept the flame burning but also added to its brightness such as Satyabama Johnson, Dr. Benjamin Mani Pulimood, Dr.Dr. T.S Koshy, Dr. Lily John, Dr. A.M.Cherian, Dr.Dr. Dilip Mathai, Dr.George John and Dr. Kurien Thomas.
The Initial years
1949 – 1970
In the mid-sixties, the name that stood out in the minds of people was that of Dr.Pandipeddi Kutumbiah. He graduated from Madras medical college, on retirement from government service in 1948, came to CMC on an invitation by Aunt Ida. He became the first professor of medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. Between 1950 and 1956 he was also the principal of the College, and from 1956 to 1957 he acted as its director. His interests in academic medicine were characterized by their breadth rather than originality. In 1947 he shared in the foundation of a society for the study of the history of medicine, now known as the Indian Association for the History of Medicine, of which he was at one time the president. His insight, clinical acumen and knowledge were unsurpassed. He practised medicine while laying the foundation of medical education in this country.
Department of Medicine
A fertile ground
Wider interest, greater insight and opportunity led to the development of specialities in the institution. Young faculty who had a vision and willingness to develop a speciality were chosen, nurtured and were allowed to spend time in such places to gain valuable experience, causing the medicine fertile ground to sprout specialities which grew into the great banyan trees, which till date, continue to sustain the mission of our founder.
Dr. Vytilingam, then professor in Medicine unit II created the ground for the Department of Cardiology to sprout and grow. Her area of expertise was in the management of valvular heart diseases and she had the privilege of being trained under of Dr. Taussig in 1961. She was succeeded by Dr.George Cherian, who was fondly described as one among the giants in cardiology in the early seventies. He along with Dr.Vythilingam, Dr. Stanley John and Dr. N. Gopinath were instrumental in setting up the catheterization labs in the institution. Dr. IP Sukumar, in the early seventies, needs a special mention because he propagated the concepts of congenital heart disease and/or developed Paediatric Cardiology departments. The torch of light was further carried as specialists in cardiology by Dr.Shankar Krishnaswami, Dr.Jacob Jose, Dr.George Joseph and Dr.Sunil Thomas Chandy, who were the proud alumnus of the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Selwyn Baker
Dr.Selwyn Baker, joined CMC Vellore, in Medicine unit I with Dr.Kutumbiah. He had practised medicine in Australia and United Kingdom and had the experience of working with Dr.J.V Dacie in Haematology and Dr.David Mollin and Sir Christopher Booth in Gastroenterology. He initiated research work in diarrheal diseases and set up the Wellcome research unit. The concept of the multidisciplinary department established by Dr.Jacob Chandy in neurological sciences was later applied to Gastroenterology. The William’s building was founded through his efforts and was a landmark in the establishment of the Department of Gastrointestinal sciences. His efforts were further sustained by Dr.V.I.Mathan and Dr.Benjamin Pulimood, and were the torch of light was further carried forth by Dr.Cyrus Kapadia, Dr.George Kurien, Dr.B.S.Ramakrishna, Dr.Ashok Chacko, Dr.David Rolston and Dr.George Chandy.
Dr. P. Koshy
In the 1940-50’s, Nephrology as an organized discipline did not exist in the world. It was perhaps, a distant dream in the minds and imagination of a few scientists and a handful of clinicians, with a particular insight into the unique and vital role, which the kidneys and its diseases played in human biology. These scientists were mostly located in a few larger medical centers and in many countries they did not exist. Budding nephrologists could not have access to professional training anywhere. P. Koshy, then professor of Medicine was the first person to introduce the concept of care of kidney patients for the first time in India. A Kollf twin coil artificial kidney machine had been sent as a gift through the Christian Mission in USA to Vellore but could not be installed till His Excellency Shri Gopeshwar Prasad Sahi, the erstwhile Maharaja of Hathwa, an old state of Bihar, developed 'chronic uraemia'. Dr. Lala Suraj Nandan Prasad who was looking after him consulted late Dr. P Koshy, the then Professor of Medicine at the CMC regarding the feasibility of dialysis on this Maharaja . The machine was installed and CMC was involved in carrying out the first hemodialysis in India, in the year 1962. The Indian society of nephrology was found by Prof.Chugh and P.Koshy under the umbrella of association of physicians of India. The first renal transplantation was done in CMC, under the guidance of Dr.K.V.Johnny. The torch of light was carried forward through Dr.Meschach Kirubakaran, Dr.J.C.M Shastry, Dr.Chacko Korula Jacob, Dr.Paulose P Thomas and Dr.George T John.
Dr. Mammen Chandy
Haematology services with a formal department, existed at the Christian Medical College at least from the 1950s under Dr. Selwyn Baker. The focus of work at the time appears to have been mainly on nutritional anemias and haemostasis disorders, in cooperation with the Clinical Pathology department with Dr. Robert Carman. Later, in the 1970s, this was replaced by services provided from the General Medical and pediatric units of the institution with Medical Unit I, under Dr. B.M. Pulimood taking greater interest in this subject. In the late 70s, there was no satisfactory protocol was available for management of acute leukemia. Medicine unit I, started with treatment protocols from USA (by Dr.Janet Cuttner and others) and had fair success with limited resources and facilities. Dr.Mammen Chandy and Dr.Alok Srivastava, were young faculty then, who also were interested in taking this field forward. This was nurtured by Dr.Benjamin Pulimood, who played a key role in helping them establish contact with Prof.Peter Castald at Westmead hospital, Sydney, Australia and Dr.David Dennison at Nebraska, USA. Dr.Mammen Chandy set up the clinical Haematology, which led to establishment of a successful and ongoing bone marrow transplant programme. Bone marrow transplant was made possible with HLA typing developing in Clinical pathology by Dr.Ramani Pulimood and Dr.Jerrasaki. The torch was carried forward by Dr.Alok Srivastava and Dr.David Dennison.
Dr. M. S. Seshadri
In the early ’80s, the need for department of Endocrinology was pressing as more patients needed to be catered with hormonal problems and diabetes. Dr.Lily John, then head of Medicine – III, was instrumental in initiation of the diabetic clinic which provided a comprehensive screening and care for the diabetics. This was further sustained by Dr.Alka Ganesh, an eminent physician. Dr.M.S.Seshadri, under the leadership of Dr.A.M.Cherian, was inspired by the ever growing need for a specialist in Endocrinology. In 1983, Dr. Seshadri went to the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney to pursue a doctorate in Endocrinology. He worked under Professor Solomon Posen, a doyen in the field of calcium and metabolic bone diseases. During the course of his doctoral studies, Dr. Seshadri was able to acquire valuable laboratory and research experience, and his work on PTH, Vitamin D and oncogenous osteomalacia were ground-breaking. On completing his doctoral studies in 1986, he returned to CMC and began providing clinical services in Endocrinology. In 1994, Professor Seshadri established the Department of Endocrinology, and the subsequent years have seen the growth of an exceptional department that has now acquired an international stature in Endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism. The department of medicine unit II further collaborated with diabetes research and this was carried forward by Dr.Nihal Jacob Thomas. The torch was further carried by Dr.Simon Rajaratnam making use of their entry to top class endocrine research in Australia.
Dr. D. J. Christopher
Pulmonary Medicine has been in existence as the departments of “Chest diseases” and “Thoracic Medicine” since the 1970s. Dr.Jim Milledge, was the pioneer who happened to meet Dr Jacob Chandy, then principal of Vellore Christian Medical College in South India, and was invited to join the staff in this institution. He spent 10 years as physician in this unique institution where he worked closely with the cardiothoracic surgeons starting open-heart surgery and the attendant intensive care, as well as with conventional respiratory medicine. The first regression equations to predict the normal lung function values for the Indian population were derived by Dr. Jim Milledge; from research done at CMC, Vellore. Dr. D Ray played a key role in the development of the department of Respiratory Medicine. He brought the first mechanical ventilator to CMC and has done extensive research work in respiratory diseases. In the year 1993, it was amalgamated with Medicine Unit II, for want of suitable manpower. The services were continued by Dr.D.J.Christopher under the headship of Prof.A.M.Cherian, then head of Medicine II, which led to growth and development of the department of Pulmonary Medicine.
Dr. Debashis Danda
Dr.A.M.Cherian, the professor and head of Medicine unit II, was an eminent person who nurtured and was the key to the start of specialities. It was in his term, that Endocrinology and Pulmonary Medicine branched out. Dr.Debashis Danda joined the service of institution after completing his residency in Internal Medicine at GSVM Medical College in 1990, and specialization in Clinical Immunology at Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in 1996, and a subsequent Rheumatology fellowship in Adelaide, Australia. After the celebration of the diamond jubilee of medicine department, Rheumatology branched out from Medicine unit II under the headship of Dr. Debashish Danda.
Dr. Raju Titus
The speciality of medical oncology had its roots in medicine unit II. Dr.A.M.Cherian was again instrumental in the development of this field, through Dr. Raju Titus Chacko, then junior faculty in the unit.
Dr. Dilip Mathai
The story of Infectious diseases was again a combination of events. The interest of Medicine unit -I in tuberculosis opened the way for Dr.P.H.Chandrsekhar to develop interest in Infectious diseases. Later, Dr. Haregopal Thadepalli and Dr.Chandrasekhar inspired Dr.Dilip Mathai, who was placed with them in California, where he was trained in the principles and practice of Infectious Diseases and led the department to a new horizon. The present Infectious Diseases department had drawn inspiration from the long and illustrious list of faculty who did pioneering work in this field and let the flag of our alma mater fly high in this world.
Dr.R.G.Cochrane, Dr.Paul Brand, Dr.Herbert Grass, Dr.C.K.Job – Landmark research in leprosy
Dr.Ruth Meyers, Dr.Donald Carey, Dr.Roger Feldman, Dr.J.K.G.Webb – Landmark research in arbovirus infections
Dr.Jacob John, Dr.Sridharan – Landmark research in Virology
Dr.Grace Koshy – Steptococcal infections
Dr.Prema Bhatt – E.Coli infections of GI tract
Dr.Dilip mathai, was also the catalyst for several other training programmes like the Fellowship in HIV Medicine, the International Short Course in Tropical Medicine and the Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Infectious Diseases. It was under his astute leadership that the growth and development of the Infectious Diseases division took place within Medicine Unit I. The Infectious Diseases Training and Research Centre (IDTRC) and the Benjamin M. Pulimood Laboratory for Infection, Immunity and Inflammation (BMPLIII) were established in 2006 to provide space and support for training programmes and research activities. In his role as chief mentor to both the IDTRC and BMPLIII, he successfully envisioned and encouraged research and education in infectious diseases. He is the founder and managing trustee of ACTFID - the Associated Cement Company (ACC) and CMC Trust for Infectious Diseases. ACTFID is a unique example of 'public private partnership' as it brings together CMC Vellore, ACC and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) to focus on the provision of care to people living with HIV infection. More importantly, this effort has made life-saving ART available free of cost to over 1,000 patients. His torch was carried forward by Dr. O.C. Abraham, Dr. Anand Zachariah, Dr. Priscilla Rupali and Dr. George M Varghese.
Dr. George John
The unfolding of critical care medicine in CMC, Vellore has been salutatory. In the 1960 s and 1970 s, the care of critically ill patients in CMC was by utilizing “rosters”. This implied that the medical staff sat by the bedside of these patients according to pre-arranged ‘roster’ so that vital parameters can be monitored frequently to initiate therapy. Professor D. Ray, had the mechanical ventilators under the pulmonary medicine department and were brought to the patient as and when needed. The year 1979, marked a humble beginning of 5 bed ICU unit. Due to the rising needs the unit was expanded. The staffing was taken care of by initiation of Indian Society of critical care medicine in 1993.They started training programmes in critical care – diploma (IDCC) and fellowship (IFCC). Dr. George John, department of Medicine-3 took up the initiative and established the critical care unit in 2001.