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Christian Medical College Vellore

Not to be ministered unto but to minister

Vision Statement: The Christian Medical College, Vellore, seeks to be a witness to the healing ministry of Christ, through excellence in education, service and research

Dr. Paul Brand


Dr. Paul Wilson Brand transformed the way we understand and treat Hansen’s Disease.

A picture of Dr. Paul Brand

God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain

The Gift of Pain – Dr. Paul Brand

Paul Brand was born in India in 1914. His early years were full of fun and adventure as he grew up in the Kolli Hills of Tamil Nadu. His caring parents welcomed everyone into their home. But one day this changed.

A man disfigured by Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) arrived seeking help. His father looked after him. But they wouldn’t let him into the house. And the children were kept well away from this man. The young Paul Brand saw this, and it had an indelible impact on him.

Dr. Paul Brand in CMC

Paul Brand with Aunt Ida in 1956. Paul first worked at CMC Vellore then started karigiri hospital
Dr Paul Brand at CMC Vellore, shown here with Dr Ida Scudder in 1956

Many years later, in 1946, Paul Brand came to CMC Vellore as a trained surgeon. There was still a lot of stigma around leprosy, and little was known about the disease. At that time, doctors believed that the bacteria attacked the flesh. And this directly caused the fingers, toes and feet to rot and fall apart.

Dr. Brand was determined to help these people and so started to research this topic in great detail. He found was that the damage was not caused directly by the bacteria. Instead, it was caused by ordinary, often small, injuries. The injuries happened because the person with Hansen’s disease could not feel pain. This was a completely new finding that would change the lives of many people.

Transformed Understanding of the Disease

Pain protects us when we hurt ourselves. If we touch a hot vessel, we immediately withdraw our hand. This protects our hand from further injury. But Hansen’s disease destroys the nerves that let us feel pain, hot and cold.

For example, this means that

  • People affected by Hansen’s disease can’t feel a sharp thorn in the foot.
  • Normally, we would quickly feel the pain and quickly remove that thorn.
    • This would keep the damage to a minimum.
  • But if you cannot feel that thorn, you do not know to remove the thorn. Instead, you keep walking on the thorn which causes more and more damage to the foot.
After rehabilitation this man can now work. He has gloves and socks and shoes to prevent damage
Ready for work as an agricultural labourer. Gloves to protect his hands and shoes and socks to protect his feet..

So Dr. Paul Wilson Brand transformed the way we understand Hansen’s disease. This amazing insight opened a brand-new approach to how we care for people with Hansen’s disease. Simple things can be done to prevent the damage. For example:

  • You can wear shoes to prevent damage from stones and thorns.
  • You can teach people to use their eyes to compensate for not feeling something.
    • For example, to use your eyes to check your feet regularly for damage. So, look at your feet and see if there are any red areas or other damage.

This approach has gone on to save thousands from disability and disfigurement. And the same approach is now used for people with diabetes who have damage to their nerves.

Transformed Understanding of How to Treat the Disease

Paul Brand also went on to transform the way we treat Hansen’s disease with his pioneer tendon transplant surgery. This surgery moves a tendon so that the hand (or foot) works better than it did before. This surgery is still done today.

He also introduced vocational rehabilitation. The rehabilitation, or training, will allow the patient to earn a living where previously their only option had been to beg.

Paul Brands Work Continues

The Ulcer Ward at CHAD

The rebuilt New Life Centre or Ulcer Ward in Chad. This continues to help transform the lives of people with Hansen's disease
The new Ulcer ward is part of the CHAD facilities in the Bagayam college campus

Today, you can see the fingerprints of Dr. Paul Brand’s work around CMC Vellore. A couple of years ago CMC rebuilt the special ward he made to care for his Hansen’s patients.

Surgery Continues

A doctor reviews this mans hand after hand surgery in HLRS
A patient reviewed in the HLRS OP after surgery from 2005

We continue to heal the wounds of people who have suffered for years from its ravages mainly through this ward and the HLRS unit (Hand and Leprosy Reconstruction Surgery).

Lives are Healed

Pragasams life was transformed by the surgery and rehabilitation he had at CMC.
Mr. Prakasam sells eggs to residents in Bagayam, CMC

Former patients live productive lives. Mr. Prakasam, had Hansen’s disease a long time ago and remains a testament to the benefits of rehabilitation . He had surgery and was then rehabilitated in the New Life Centre, set up by Dr. Brand. He then worked till his retirement in CMC’s Audiovisual Unit. He remains active and continues to sell eggs in the campus.

 “Though I suffered a lot as a child, I am now a happy man. I owe everything to the doctors and other members of the CMC community, who have looked after me in a hundred big and small ways throughout my life,” he says with a smile brimming with confidence and contentment.

World Leprosy Day

‘World Leprosy Day’ falls on Sunday, 31st January 2021. Leprosy is still with us. We can easily cure Hansen’s Disease, but we still don’t know how people catch it. Let us continue Dr Paul Brand’s legacy of healing, combating stigma, and researching.

The CHAD hospital gives free treatment to Hansen’s patients, through the Ulcer Ward. With your gift, we will be able to give free food for these patients.

The Paul Brand Building

The new orthopaedic block is named after Dr Paul Brand. This was the student nurses hostel (SNH) but they moved to the new College of Nursing at Kagithapattarai. We hope to start to treat patients here in March 2021. The building work took longer than anticipated due to the COVID pandemic, so it will be wonderful to finally see it in use. There are wards and theatres in the block and both will be used mainly by the orthopaedic departments.

Dr. Paul Brand’s biography Ten Fingers for God, by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, and his book (with Paul Yancey) The Gift of Pain are well worth reading.

FAQs on Hansen’s Disease

If you have any questions about Hansen’s disease (leprosy), you can visit this page on the CMC website for Frequently Asked Questions that have been answered by experts in the field.

Philp Yancey on Paul Brand

Listen to the third Ida Scudder Humanitarian oration on Dr. Paul Brand by Mr. Philip Yancey.

Mr. Philip Yancey recounts his visit to CMC Vellore where he gave his talk and his time in India in his blog. You can read it here.

More on Paul Brand

Some Inspiring Books

There are a few wonderful books that look at Paul Brands life and the effect of losing the ability to feel pain in leprosy. We can recommend them all.

The versions printed in India are a lot cheaper, the bookshop at CMC sometimes has these and other stores may have. If not, Amazon has the more expensive versions.

Blogs featuring Paul Brand

A couple of blogs have some insights into Dr Brand

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