EMMS International – Origins and Background
How EMMS International began
In 1841, a group of doctors formed the Edinburgh Association for Sending Medical Aid to Foreign Countries to “circulate information on medical mission; help other institutions engaged in the same work and assist as many Missionary stations as their funds would permit.”
The name was changed in 1843 to The Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society – a name which lasted until 2002 when it was split into two separate Charities - EMMS International and The Nazareth Trust.
EMMS Students and the Cowgate Dispensary
In 1852 EMMS started a scheme to train medical students who would eventually work in the mission field overseas. This was to become the most important contribution of the Society to the cause of Medical Mission.
In 1853 a Medical Mission Dispensary and Clinic was opened in Edinburgh’s Cowgate. This not only acted as a practical training ground for student doctors but also existed for the social, spiritual and medical benefit of the residents in the area.
After the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, there was no longer a need for a free clinic and it was closed in 1952.
EMMS and The Nazareth Hospital
Dr Kaloost Vartan, a former EMMS student, had originally been sent to Beirut by the London Society for Sending Aid to the Protestants of Syria. He was ‘adopted’ by the EMMS and went to Nazareth where he opened a dispensary in 1861.
Married to a Mary Anne Stewart, a Scottish nurse, their house became the first clinic in Nazareth, with 8 beds in their upper front room. By 1879, their extended house had become inadequate and, after many difficulties, the land on which the present hospital stands was purchased in 1906.
Today, the hospital is owned by The Nazareth Trust. It is a 136-bed general district hospital fulfilling a vital role as part of the Israeli healthcare system. It has the only Accident and Emergency facility in the region and functions 24 hours per day.
EMMS in Syria and India
With the success of the hospital in Nazareth a Medical Mission Dispensary was started in Damascus in 1885 and in 1898 a purpose-built hospital was opened, and named after Queen Victoria.
However, after the Second World War, with increasing difficulties over medical and nursing registration, loss of charitable status and the threat of increased taxation the Society felt unable to continue to run the hospital and in 1955 it was handed over to the Syrian Government.
Meanwhile, in India Dr Colin Valentine, who had been a fellow student of Dr Vartan, was, in 1861, supported and funded by EMMS, to set up an Institution in Agra for training doctors.
In 1885 the interests of the EMMS and this institution were merged to form the Agra Medical Missionary Training Institution and it functioned until 1913, when the death of its then Superintendent forced its closure.
How EHA (UK) began
EHA (UK) began as the Emmanuel Hospital Association European Fellowship – a small group primarily formed for prayer support, identification of individuals who would be able to work in India and placement of students for their elective.
Changing circumstances forced the Fellowship to transform itself in 1999 into EHA (UK), a charitable trust. Its role expanded to include fundraising and to receive an annual deputation from India, which toured various locations in the UK to spread the EHA ‘message’.