Who We Are To Be

//Who We Are To Be



Seventeen young girls came to Vellore to join the new medical college for women that Dr Ida Scudder started in 1918. Her great desire was to train these girls to be excellent doctors with inquiring minds, gentle hands and compassionate hearts, who would, at the end of their training, go to places which needed women doctors. As the girls went through their training period, they realized that life would be tough; that their lives would no longer belong to them. Four of the students decided that this was not the life for them and dropped out. There were a final fourteen – Ebbie, Kruppama, Jessielet, Lizzie, Navamani, Lucy,Elizabeth,Cecilia, Sophie,Thai, Dhannama, Kanagam,Anna and Saramma – who were like little chicks following Mother Hen Dr Scudder everywhere, learning everything, absorbing everything, doing what she did. She groomed them not only in medicine but also in life and its many etiquettes. They had to learn to be ‘cool, collected and quiet, to have presence of mind and rapid thought in mind and action in the most trying circumstances.’ She tutored them with two books, a microscope and one skeleton and made them excel at everything they did.

Life was never easy for Dr Scudder. There was rivalry between the different missions where she was caught in the middle; a long day of complicated medical and surgical care to be done; shortage of staff and supplies; yet her focus on what her mission was steady. To be as Jesus was. That was who she was to be – like Jesus. In Dr Scudder’s biography there is an anecdote of how a young American trained doctor was so disturbed looking at the bent head of a grieving mother because the young boy had died whilst in her charge. The doctor was just standing there trying to comprehend what had happened and where she had gone wrong, when she saw Dr Scudder put her arm around the mother and grieve silently with her. Dr Carol Jamieson on her first rounds with her saw her in action and said, ‘It is like seeing Jesus.’

The gospels are full of stories that Aunt Ida loved of who we are to be – a light; a city on a hill; yeast that makes the bread rise; salt that flavours food. A hundred years later, the message of who we are to be is still the same.

St Paul in his verses on love tells us how we are to be – kind, patient, gentle, slow to anger, not envious of others, protective, trusting and full of hope. We are to be truthful and look for truth always, and most important of all, we are not to keep a record of the wrongs done to us, but forgive those who hurt us. To remind them of who they were to be and how they were to be, Dr Scudder read the verses that St Paul wrote on what love is everyday to her students. {1 Corinthians – Chapter 13} and taught them the gospel stories again and again.

As we reflect on the legacy left behind not only by Dr Scudder, but also of those who followed in her footsteps, perhaps we too should meditate on who we are to be and how we are to be.



Usha Jesudasan is a writer who lives in Vellore and has had a close relationship with CMC for over 4 decades. For many years she wrote the weekly meditation Let’s Think Together for CMC. She is the author of several books. Her two bestselling books are I Will Lie Down In Peace ( the story of her young family’s confrontation with illness and death) and Two Journeys (the journeys two women have to take when cancer enters their lives). She is also the co – author of Living In Harmony, a graded series of Peace and Values Education books for children from Class 1-10.



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