A Passage to India

In 2006, as part of an NIH Global Health Framework grant, Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths travelled to CMC and provided a server to initiate the use of TUSK at the school.

Subsequently, TUSK was established as a widely used eLearning platform at CMC through the efforts of Drs. Mary Lee, Associate Provost, and Susan Albright at Tufts.

Over time, CMC creatively transformed the enterprise knowledge management system to suit its needs in ways the developers at Tufts never could have imagined. CMC’s E-Learning system now provides curriculum support for local and distant education for students and faculty across its national network of over 200 hospitals.

TUSM’s relationship with CMC has generated excellent training opportunities in India for its medical and public health students. According to Dr. Wanke, program director for TUSM’s global health program in India, “CMC is an extraordinary institution and we are lucky to have learning opportunities for our students there. The medical staff is superbly trained in a variety of settings. Through this program students can gain a wealth of knowledge and experience about how to deliver excellent primary health care when resources are limited.”

For the last four summers, close to a dozen students in the MD and MD/MPH program have travelled to India, where they participate in clinical training at CMC’s major teaching hospital and work in the Community Health and Development (CHAD) program in Vellore and its surrounding villages.

Every year several MPH students in the global health concentration choose to complete their Applied Learning Experience (ALE), an in-depth research project, at CMC. These students have the opportunity to see and participate in public health activities practiced in a well-organized community setting. A new semester-long program for MPH students launched this fall, consisting of a month-long ALE followed by classes at CMC.

The strong relationship between TUSM and CMC continues to deepen. There is now a Tufts-CMC Center for Public Health Education and Research; ground-breaking for the new building to house this program is scheduled for February 2012. CMC has recently initiated a Masters in Public Health program in Vellore, for which Tufts faculty assisted in the development of curriculum. These mutual initiatives promise to be successful learning opportunities for both TUSM and CMC staff, students, and faculty, at a time when the importance of global health concerns is increasingly becoming a priority.

Christian Medical College (CMC), the single largest private medical college in India with over 31 clinical and allied specialties, had its humble beginnings in 1900 as a one bed clinic. CMC founder Dr. Ida Scudder, born to American missionaries in India, came to the U.S. to train at Cornell University Medical College, and returned to Vellore determined to construct a much-needed women and children’s hospital.

Realizing that in order to succeed she must help women help themselves, and education was the key to empowering them, in 1918 she opened a medical school for women. The medical school was upgraded into a medical college in 1942, under the name Christian Medical College.

Today, CMC trains 320 undergraduate medical students and 192 undergraduate nursing students and offers 66 post-graduate medical degrees, 35 Allied Health Science courses, 8 nursing programs, and PhD doctoral programs in various disciplines. Clinical care and training are carried out mostly in the Christian Medical College Hospital, which is a 2,695-bed tertiary care facility serving a local population of approximately 400,000 and referrals from other states in India. CMC caters to over 5,500 outpatients, 2,500 inpatients, 75 surgical procedures, 22 clinics, and about 30 births every day.

Tufts has been able to capture the attention of the administration at CMC- a school where people from all over the globe come to train- and create a relationship with a depth and breadth that is unique. Dr. Honorine Ward, Professor of Medicine (Geo Med ID) who obtained her medical degree at CMC, has facilitated the relationship between TUSM and CMC.

Although it was not until 2007 that an official Memorandum of Cooperation was formalized, for over 25 years prior, TUSM and CMC had been informally collaborating on research, training, and education. The partnership also led to bilateral exchanges of faculty; four Tufts faculty members are CMC alumni, five CMC faculty members received Master of Public Health degrees at Tufts, and one is currently a candidate for a PhD in the Sackler Clinical Research Program. There are several CMC faculty who hold Tufts appointments and some TUSM faculty who hold CMC appointments.

Collaborative research projects between TUSM and CMC have resulted in multiple joint publications and funded grants. A program on waterborne infectious diarrheal diseases received four NIH-funded grants (awarded to Dr. Ward and CMC’s Dr. Gagandeep Kang). The high rates of HIV infection in Tamil Nadu, the state in India where CMC is located, led to research approaches to optimizing HIV care, with a focus on nutritional status or intestinal function in individuals infected with HIV. Drs. Ward and Christine Wanke of Tufts and Drs. Kang and Rita Isaac of CMC have just been awarded an Indo-US Collaborative Grant to continue this work.

Over the last nine years, joint training programs between the two institutions have been coordinated by Drs. Wanke and Kang, and supported by several National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center (NIH-FIC) funded grants. Programs include the Brown/Tufts Fogarty AIDS International Training Research Program (AITRP) that funds CMC trainees to obtain HIV-related research training or to obtain degrees including the MPH or Masters in Clinical Research at Tufts, the Global Infectious Diseases Research (GIDR) and Training Program in enteric infections research for CMC trainees at Tufts, and the International Clinical Research Scholars Program that allows a TUSM student to spend a year at CMC performing a mentored research project alongside a CMC medical student.

Find more information about the Christian Medical College program in Vellore and other global health opportunities at TUSM.