GUWAHATI, June 9 – Assam is yet to pay due tribute to Dr John Berry White, the father of modern allopathic medical education in this part of the earth, regrets Dr Taufique Rahman Borbora, ex-Principal of Assam Medical College (AMC), Dibrugarh.
Dr John Berry White, the English allopathic doctor, who served Assam for 24 years, had dreamt of an institution of medical education in Assam and had donated an amount of Rs 50,000 towards fulfilling that vision. The above amount, which is more than 10 million rupees today, was a part of Dr White’s personal savings.
Dr Berry White, then a youth of 24 years, arrived in Assam in 1858. In 1857, he was commissioned as an assistant surgeon under the East India Company and was posted in Upper Assam. He served the Upper Assam areas in various capacities for 24 years and rose to the position of Civil Surgeon of the then Lakhimpur district.
The deplorable condition of medical services in the then Assam province made him nurture a dream for setting up an institution of medical education. Dr Berry White had written in his will that the institution should be located at Dibrugarh. He breathed his last on November 19, 1896 in London and the institution of his dream came into reality in 1900. It was named after him – The Berry White Medical School.
Dr Borbora provided these information in a write-up he penned for the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir of the AMC after doing some research on Dr Berry White.
Dr Borbora says that Dr White was also responsible to a great extent for the beginning and development of tea, coal and oil industries in Assam. The rail track between Ledo and Dibrugarh was also the fruit of his ‘vision and hard labour.’ It was the first rail track in this part of the country. Later, it was extended to Amingaon.
Dr White also worked for the development of the modern river transport system in Assam. This resulted in the famous RSN Company, says Dr Borbora.
It is pertinent here to mention that at the instance of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the AMC authorities submitted a proposal in 2007, for preserving the memories of Dr Berry White. The Chief Minister showed keen interest in doing something for the purpose, as, both his father and paternal aunt’s husband were products of the Berry White Medical School.
The Budget estimate of the State for 2010-11 provided for an amount of Rs 1 crore for preservation of the heritage of Berry White Medical School at Dibrugarh under the Chief Minister’s special scheme. But nothing tangible has happened following this announcement, regrets Dr Borbora.