Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder

Dr. Ida S. Scudder (Dec 9, 1870 – May 23, 1960)
Founder, CMC Vellore, Vellore, India

A third-generation American medical missionary, Dr. Ida S. Scudder dedicated her life to women’s rights and public health in India.

Dr. Scudder was born to a family with a rich history of medical missionary service. As a child growing up in India, she witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of famine, poverty, and disease.

In 1890, after graduating from a Massachusetts women’s seminary, she watched as three men sought aid for their wives who were in childbirth. Her father, a trained physician, offered to attend to them, but the men refused help from a male physician. The three young mothers died, rattling Dr. Scudder and propelling her to a life of medical service for women and the underserved.

Those three knocks were a calling from God for the young Ida Scudder. She rejected the traditions or marriage and family and a comfortable life in the United States, eventually earning a medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1899.

Dr. Scudder returned to India in 1900 to begin her work. With a small gift of $10,000 from a man who wanted to memorialize his deceased wife, she immediately opened a one-bed clinic giving medical assistance to local women who had no other place to go for health care.

By 1902, the 40-bed Mary Taber Schell Memorial Hospital opened, beginning the realization of Ida’s vision – that women should have the same access to quality and compassionate healthcare that men did, regardless of religion or the ability to pay for it.

Dr. Scudder went on to open a medical school for women, which despite male skepticism, received over 150 applications in its first year in 1918. At first, the Reformed Church in America was the main backer of the Vellore school, and after Dr. Scudder agreed to make it coeducational, it eventually gained the support of 40 additional missions.

You will not only be curing diseases, but will also be battling with epidemics, plagues and pestilences and preventing them. Face trials with a smile, with head erect and a calm exterior. If you are fighting for the right and for a true principle, be calm and sure and keep on until you win.​

That tiny clinic has grown into CMC, Vellore – one of India’s most prestigious private hospitals and medical schools. Today, CMC cares for over two million patients and trains one thousand doctors, nurses and other medical professionals each year. 

Dr. Ida S. Scudder’s legacy continues today.

Watch the moment that inspired a young woman to establish a Christian medical mission in South India over one hundred years ago, and  inspired countless others to follow in her steps.