Lahore Medical School: Surpassing Divides

By: Usama Irshad
2nd Year MBBS

Like any average Punjabi ,I have inherited(and imbibed) my fair share of love for the
dhaba (open-air restaurants) culture. This combined with the deluge of servants at our home, most of whom hailed from Punjabi villages, and who given half a chance would break into their favorites numbers from the likes of Ibrar ul Haq and Arif Lohar, ingrained in me a deep sense of ownership for this legendary land of five rivers.

 At school we were taught to hate India for waging wars against us, for killing our people and usurping our rightful assets, but as I grew up and read authors like K K Aziz (Murder of History),Pran Neville(Lahore a Sentimental Journey), Bapsi Sidhwa(Cracking India) and Khushwant Singh(Train to Pakistan), I was able to dispel most of my grudges and hatred for India as nonsensical and irrational. I realized that the atrocities of 1947 had largely been two-sided and that they were fueled by political figures whose ulterior motives had blinded them to the bloodshed they were ensuing.

I read about the umbilical relationship between the holy city of Amritsar and our very own Lahore; about the deep cultural and social ties that run deep and that connect the the two Punjabs  inspite of all the bad blood and wars between us.

Like any average Punjabi whose ancestors migrated from Amritsar to Lahore, I grew up listening to rich stories of a land not-so-far-away, a land where Muslims and Sikhs lived like brothers, where Gurdwaras flourished in the shadows of Mosques, a land where religious puritans were scowled upon and where lurid and scandalous love affairs would all too often spring up between Sikhs and Muslims.

And so, like any average Punjabi with roots in the Indian Punjab,I am thrilled to hear the lilting lyrics of this evergreen track
from the controversial Bollywood flick, Gadar:

                Rab Jaane Kab Guzra Amritsar 
                (God knows when Amritsar went by)

                Oh Kab Jaane Lahore Aaya 

                (Who knows when Lahore came)

                Main Uthe Dil Chhod Aaya

                (I left my heart there)

Amritsar, flanking our eastern border with India, holds a special place in the hearts of all Punjabis. The land of The Golden Temple and the Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar is like that brother who went to live away from us in 1947.

The Golden Temple(Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar

The Jallianwala Bagh Memorial,Amritsar

With such sentiments and love for Amritsar in my heart, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a part of my alma mater, King Edward Medical University (formerly College),Lahore still thrives in Amritsar as Government Medical College Amritsar.

A trip to the University’s Library Hall and some rustling of archives provided me with a wealth of fascinating historical facts that I could not resist writing about.

KEMC ,1920s

The prestigious KE medical university of today traces its humble beginnings to 1860 when under the charismatic Dr Scriven (especially invited from General Hospital, Calcutta) Lahore Medical School was established in some run down artillery barracks near Taxali Gate, Lahore. The conditions were far from conducive to the study of Human Body, but these men persevered and the School(which consisted of a local Hindustani class, an English class ,and a Hakim(Unani Tib) class) rolls gradually increased and so did the School’s popularity and the amount of Government funding.

In 1864, the Medical School and Hospital were shifted to Shah Almi area of Lahore, much nearer to the Civil Hospital in Anarkali Bazaar. The budding institute was facing a perpetual paucity of funds and it was after a lot of efforts on part of both the Government and the public that in 1870 the present day Mayo Hospital building was completed. This Purdon designed Italian styled building today serves as the indoor patient unit. Until 1870 the School had been awarding its own diplomas to the assistant-surgeons and native doctors, but with the establishment of Punjab University College that year the task of exam conduction was passed on to it, which the University performed well, until 2006.

The new School building was not built until 1883 and until then the classes were held in Railway Hostels near the Mayo Hospital. The Medical College status was established in 1886 and later the General Science classes were shifted to Government College University.

Until 1920 the Medical School and College were run in the same buildings in Anarkali Lahore. More and more applications were being received for admission each year so much so that the number had actually doubled over the previous five years.  This led to frustration for the rejected applicants and also left the governments requirements unfulfilled. The College and School vied with each other for the lion's share of vacancies and facilities.
Finally, the only option left was something that had been urged over the years, namely, shifting the Medical School to Amritsar, which had a big hospital and a large number of unclaimed bodies available for dissection. The separation of the College and School was effected in October, 1920.

A Rare Image of the Historical Faridkot Block of KEMC,Lahore

The Medical School continued working under the administration of the College in Lahore and awarded LSMF degrees after a four year course. It was in 1943,only a few years before partition, that the Lahore Medical School in Amritsar was raised to the status of Medical College and named after the then Governor General of Punjab, Sir B.J. Glancy.  The Victoria Jubilee Hospital (later renamed as Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital) was the attached hospital.

After the Partition, the Glancy Medical College (later renamed as Govt. Medical College) was the only medical institute in Northern India and played a pivotal role in treating injured and dying refugees coming from Western Punjab. The College has, since then, expanded into an eminent institute whose alumni have brought fame and recognition to their alma mater.

Government Medical College,Amritsar

According to the College website, its present-day campus spreads over 163 acres and Guru Nanak Dev Hospital (built in 1974) is the new attached hospital while Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot is responsible for conducting examination and awarding degrees to the college graduates.

GMCA's Present-day Campus 

While Lahore Medical College has seamlessly evolved into an independent, degree awarding university(King Edward Medical University)in Lahore and continues to be the premier medical university in Pakistan, this mother institute has all the reasons to be proud, for  it provided teachers, and a worthy precedence not only to all the other medical colleges in the country, but also helped establish the leading medical institute in the Indian Punjab in the form of its off-shoot, the once Lahore Medical School.

It’s things like this, these little tokens of love or Sughats that bind the two Punjabs in an unbreakable bond that no partition or massacre could ever sever, and in a way are, but manifestations of the fact that the hearts of us Punjabis beat together.

(The writer holds a degree in psychology from the University of Cambridge,UK,
and is presently a sophomore at King Edward Medical University,Lahore,Pakistan. He tweets @Usama_Irshad_)


  1. Your research is good.
    Its a nice article !
    The various blocks of the college were the donations of many nawabs from subcontinent. The photo that i have attached you may have seen it is patiala block ! I like it that you revealed the part of our university in Amritsar.!! I would wish to go and see that some time !
    & yes about partition, the advocate for Pakistan (M.Ali Jinnah) was advocate for united india even 10 years before partition ! Hindu made him change his mind and within 10 years he achieved his goal of a new state so i presume the "political figures" "fueling" as said by you were one sided not two sided !
    & Other than KK Aziz, Bapsi, khushwant singh, there are too many indian writers , who have spread their wrath against muslims and pakistan on paper , in their books. So if you read their books you ll turn against india ? AS your opinion changed about her when you read the books of mentioned writers. I say to you, India is not our enemy. She is not our friend either. Its hard that India be good friends with us, but its easy (as evident from past) that She be our enemy anytime ! You may not agree but i think that way !

  2. Thankyou for dropping by and for your kind words. Yes, I try to research my blogs as meticulously as my limited time and resources(!) allow.
    Jinnah wanted absolute power as much as Nehru or Patel. He wanted to see his dream materialising and no bloodbath or massacre would stop him from from his mission. The same goes for Hindu leaders who were too focused on hoarding land and power to realise the sufferings of the common man. A little less lust for power,a little more compassion and a lot of innocent lives could have been saved.
    Also the gora leaders could probably have used a bit of empathy for Indians;they could have ensured a peaceful and smooth transition rather than abruptly pulling out of India the moment their business was done and over with.
    Actually I happen to have read a lot more authors than the ones I've mentioned(and you've quoted). Many of them write stories full of hatred and prejudice and they have never really swayed me from my stance. Believe me hatred,anger and resentfulness lurks on both sides of the border,but I believe(and so do some of my favorite writers) that the best way forward is to be sublime and forgiving and let bygones be bygones. Our mutual hatred has cost us dearly in the past with three wars and countless skirmishes. A little peace and harmony would be good for our trade,economy and international relations.
    As for your last 'neutral' statement,unfortunately we are a product of state-funded textbooks that crudely temper with historical facts and depict India as our arch foe,spew hatred against Hindus and glorify the very concept of an Islamisized State,only to leave young minds resentful and hateful towards every Indian and every Hindu on Earth.
    Its about time that we,the educated youth,corrected our textbook-learnt beliefs and adopted an open-minded approach towards the whole thing. Haters,terrorists,and fascisits exist in both countries but please dont let the views and actions of a certain group of people stop you from believing in a promising future for the Indo-Pak friendship.

  3. I admire your insight into this thick topic.
    No doubt we are Pakistanis first, We must think about our homeland at everystep as top most priority, that all our actions are of benefit to Pakistan before they benefit anyone else, and alongside this, You are right that as Pakistanis, we must not let the actions/views of certain people to destroy the possibility of good terms with India.
    I'll wait to see all that you write more .

  4. I understand your patriotism, but I fail to understand how your vehement declaration that "India can become our 'enemy' anytime!" (in your 1st comment) is of any benefit to us as a nation. Accepting India as a friendly nation,can,on the other hand,bring peace, economic gains and quite possibly Kashmir (which 3 wars have failed to gain) to Pakistan.
    Please erase the suspicions and doubts that you hold in your mind against India to give way to the possibility of friendly relations based on mutual trust and cooperation.

  5. The strategic location of both countries in Asia, and their political and military history is such that the Neutral stance among them both is of more value than making friends or enemies ! Moving from enemies , to having Neutral mindsets will be better , for a period of time, before the hands for friendship be extended. It could take efforts of 2-3 generations. & hence such relations are also stronger. Jumping to friendship from enmity never lasts longer ! Presently , both in India and Pakistan educated people understand the fact that Indo-Pak relations should be fair so that both nations move together, forward. & my view is/was that be Neutral with India and buy time to buy trust. Then may be a generation or two , there may develop friendship that's trustworthy. Take for example current Indian government , they were ardent speakers against Pakistan in their campaigns for elections. I say it was bad that they did, but I say it is good that they now wish good terms with our current govt. But see they are in govt, and they represent massive number of those who elected them., who listened to their raged speeches against Pakistan. So extending hand for neutral stance is the best gesture from our generation than being enemies or friends.

  6. Sorry for delayed response,but you do realise that most of what you say is based on nothing stronger that your own understanding and gumption? Neutral mindset would be better,said who? Jinnah? Nehru?
    Similarly 'jumping to friendship from enmity never lasts longer'. Really? You have an example of where it ended fatally?
    And what makes you so certain that another 2-3 generations later the two countries would become friends when we continue to spew hatred against eachother infront of our kids,not to mention our evily corrupted textbooks?


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