Livingstone College

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by A Mortimer, M.P.S. (one time dispenser)

“MENS sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body—should be the motto of every Missionary, so far as physical health is concerned. To secure this essential for missionary efficiency, Livingstone College exists. The training is not designed to suit medical missionaries, but it is of such a character that it will enable a man to know what he can do and what not to do. The missionary on the field, perhaps fifty or even a hundred miles from the nearest doctor, needs some little knowledge of medicine and surgery, and a good deal of knowledge of sanitary science. Many a disaster has been prevented, many trivial but troublesome complaints have been cured, whilst the comfort, well-being and efficiency of the missionary and his family have been secured, by the sound, practical training received at Livingstone College. That uncommon quality which has aptly been called “sanctified common sense,” combined with sound science, enables the missionary to do the very best work of which he is capable, and often prevents the expense which might be caused by having to be invalided home and similar things, to his Society. It is not intended by any means to make the missionary coddle himself, nor yet always to be trying to find his own ailments, like the man who reads patent medicine books and finds he has every complaint. Yet, though the missionary must be prepared to endure hardships and persecution for the Master’s sake, there is no occasion to run unnecessary and foolish risks. He must apply to his everyday life all the knowledge of health and sanitary conditions which are provided by modern science.

The work at “Livingstone” is divided into lectures and practical work in all the sections. The practical work is afforded by the kindness of various hospitals which allow the students access, and in every way help them to put into practice their theoretical knowledge. In addition to these hospitals the St. James-the-Less Medical Mission is a most useful help in the way of practical work for the students at the same time being a bit of real Home Mission work. The dispensary in which I was particularly interested was connected with the Medical Mission. St. James-the-Less Medical Mission is carrying on a great work in the heart of the metropolitan slum area in Bethnal Green. The Principal and Vice-Principal and others of the staff are there, and, together with the students, deal with large numbers of cases each day the Mission is open. The practical instruction in the medical cases and in dispensing obtained here is unique.

The Dispensary is adjoining the waiting-room, and with the Dispenser and a staff of three or four students in their shirt sleeves and protected by large black aprons, all is ready to commence work. The first hour or hour and a half are spent preparing large bottles of the more often required medicines. As the bottles contain about a gallon each, of four and sometimes eight times concentrated medicine, and these need replenishing daily, it is apparent that large quantities are distributed. The students do the bulk of this work, of course under personal supervision, and with a system of most careful checking. They become in time quite capable dispensers. It is sometimes objected that this work is useless to the missionary on the field, for he never has to dispense such quantities nor has he the thousand and one different drugs and chemicals at his disposal. The dispensing department in spite of objections is really of great value, as our own men who have just had a “Livingstone” course would testify. It gives the student a close and personal acquaintance with drugs and chemicals. He learns to recognise them by appearance and smell; he becomes familiar with their doses and learns to distinguish between the potent and harmless ones. Then again he becomes familiar with weights and scales and learns (perhaps for the first time in his life) the importance of absolute accuracy. He learns to be quick, clean and self-reliant in his work, for as all dispensers are told, “Dirty dispensing and bad dispensing are synonymous.” The methods of administering the different drugs are explained; the manufacture on a small scale of pills, plasters, blisters, liniments, ointments and most other pharmaceutical products is taught. The arts of accurately measuring liquids and of applying all the knowledge one possesses (scientific and otherwise) to the dispensing of medicines are, with many kindred subjects, grasped and assimilated by the students.

Whilst this preparatory work is being done, and the instruction given, the patients assemble in the waiting-room, and there a short devotional service is held. This service, though held on the premises of the Church of England, is quite undenominational, for the students, who represent almost every denomination in this and other countries, are asked on occasion to conduct this service. The Vicar, the Rev. J.E. Watts-Ditchfield, is a broad-minded Christian, and a friend of all men.

After the short service the patients, who are all ages and suffer from almost all diseases, are seen by the three or four medical men and their batches of students. They receive their prescriptions, which they take to one of the dispensing windows in batches of three. The window is opened, the bottles and papers taken inside, and actual dispensing begins. As fast as they can be dispensed, they are done, then handed out of the other window. As some of the papers contain as many as four prescriptions, and very few contain less than two, and the patients number from sixty in summer to one hundred and thirty in winter, and two hours is all the time at the disposal of the dispensers, it is evident that speed, coupled with accuracy, is essential.

The practice thus obtained is invaluable for our missionaries; the systematic work, the mental gymnastics, and the manipulative fingers all being useful training for active work.

When one remembers that the climatic conditions and the modes of life are so different in tropical countries from the homeland, and that the average educated man, even though he may hold a degree, suffers from what might be termed “common ignorance,” i.e. an ignorance of common things such as the rules of diet, hygiene and sanitary conditions, having left those things in the hands of the womenfolk, it is very necessary that all who have charge of missionary organisations should see to it that those under their care are properly instructed in the elements of medicine and hygiene—that they have more than a superficial knowledge of the general conditions and mode of life abroad. Then the health can be preserved and disease prevented. In short the aim of “Livingstone” is to thoroughly equip the men sent out with the best results of scientific research. This equipment, together with “a passion for souls,” will go far to make our men true missionaries for Christ.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1912/66

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.