A short walk down memory lane, in a white coat!
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

A short walk down memory lane, in a white coat!

August 27, 2023

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

A recent bit of news has started my heart beating much faster than it usually does at my age! I have been given to understand that the Mysore Medical College (MMC), now rechristened as the Mysore Medical College and Research Institute (MMC&RI) is all set to celebrate its centenary. And, the reason why my heart has started beating fast over this bit of news is because I happen to be one of the thousands of the doctors who have walked out of its hallowed corridors, proudly holding their qualifying degrees.

Although all name boards and references to this iconic institution call it only by its new name, thankfully, there still stands a solitary cement board in its lawns, proclaiming its age-old name. Now that I have drawn attention to its existence, I hope nobody gets inspired to remove or change this too. I feel it is better to leave it undisturbed, as it is, as a sort of Good-Luck Charm! 

The centenary celebrations which are slated to last for a full one year will formally start in the next two days with a State-sponsored function. This Medical College was established in the year 1924 at the Victoria Hospital Complex in Bangalore by H.H. Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the then Maharaja of Mysore. To begin with, it was housed in a small stone building near the original electric station in the fort area. Unfortunately, both these landmarks have disappeared now.

Dr. S. Subba Rao, the Professor of Physiology, was the first Principal, succeeded by Dr. H. G. Mylvaganam and Dr. B.K. Narayana Rao.  Prior to this, a Medical School (Vaidyashala) had been established at Bangalore, during 1833 by the 22nd ruler of the Wadiyar dynasty, Sri Krishnaraja Wadiyar (1799-1868).

Although it dealt with Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani, the three traditional Indian systems of medicine, the Maharaja was foresighted enough to incorporate in it the so-called ‘English Medicine’ too in the interest of the public and also to cater to the health needs of the Europeans in his domain, who did not repose much faith in the slow-to-act Indian Medicine! This has been mentioned in a book on the Mysore Royal Family, written by B. Ramakrishna Rao, the then Palace Controller, which was published in the year 1922.

The Palace Durbar Surgeon, working under the Maharaja, was nominated as Supervisor for this Medical School. There is an interesting background to why the Maharaja founded Mysore Medical College. Since there were no medical institutions in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore, a scheme for imparting medical education had been started in 1881 under which, carefully selected students were given scholarships and sent to places like Madras, Calcutta and Bombay to undergo medical training and to then return and work as doctors here in our State.

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After the Madras Presidency expressed its inability to admit students from Mysore State, the Government of Mysore sanctioned another scheme in April 1917 that included the establishment of a Medical School at Bangalore to train the then called “Sub Assistant Surgeons.” Trainees had to undergo a course for four years to qualify as Licenciate Medical Practitioners (LMPs).

In 1924 the Medical School was upgraded and was called the “Mysore Medical College.” The College was affiliated to the University of Mysore and the trainees were now granted full-fledged medical degrees. Two years after its inception in 1924 the Medical College, which happens to be the seventh Medical College of our country and the oldest and first Medical College of our State, upon the instructions of the Maharaja, was shifted to Mysore for some obscure reason.

It is said that there was vehement opposition to this move by the entire medical profession of Bangalore but the Maharaja’s wishes and desire prevailed, which is not very surprising. Hence the College can be regarded as twice born; first in Bangalore and later in Mysore! Here too, till the present building was completed, it used to function from the building that now houses the Public Library and the Chamarajendra Technical Institute which stands opposite the main building of the imposing Krishnarajendra Hospital.

The foundation stone was laid in 1930 by the Maharaja and the main building was constructed by Boraiah Basavaiah & Sons, the then most famous contractors of Mysore.

Dr. J.F. Robison, a Britisher, was the first Principal of the College in Mysore. He was also the Durbar (Palace) Surgeon to His Highness and Superintendent of the Krishnarajendra Hospital. He came as a fellow of the celebrated Mayo Clinic of the USA from where he had obtained his F.A.C.S. and he was later deputed by the Maharaja, to the UK to take a British Fellowship (F.R.C.S) from Edinburg.

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From its very humble beginnings, this century old educational institution has come a very long way and acquired a towering stature in our city, having played a very crucial role in the lives of millions of people from in and around Mysuru over a full hundred years. I don’t think there is a single family in and around Mysuru, which cannot talk of someone’s pain having been eased or someone’s life having been saved by the doctors and nurses it has produced.

While our State Government will be doing its part of funding and conducting the centenary celebrations in its own way, I personally feel that we the citizens and alumni, would do well to get involved actively in this affair and do something that will in turn leave a lasting mark on the personality and face of this institution. Let’s put our heads together and decide how best we can do it. And, do it, we must, because this is the least we can do to show our love and gratitude for what we and our families have got from it. Do think about it!

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