Schieffelin Institute of Health – Research and Leprosy Centre (SIH-R & LC) located near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, was established in 1955 to care for the leprosy patients in and around Vellore and to set up a research institution to probe into the multifaceted problems of leprosy. Dr. Robert Cochrane was the moving force behind this venture.
A plot of land, 15 km from Christian Medical College (CMC) hospital, Vellore and 4 km from any approach road, was obtained from the Government. With the close cooperation of The Leprosy Mission (TLM) and the American Leprosy Missions (ALM) and CMC, the project gradually materialized.
The Institute is named in honor of Mr. William J Schieffelin, the then President of the ALM, which funded the building project. Dr. Ida Scudder, the founder of CMC, turned the sod on 6th September 1952. Mr. William Bailey, Secretary of Southern Asia TLM, supervised the programme. The buildings were completed and the Schieffelin Leprosy Research Sanatorium (as it was then known) was declared open on 20th June1955.
The Schieffelin Leprosy Research Sanatorium was renamed as the Schieffelin Leprosy Research & Training Centre in 1974. The institution was registered as a company in 1977 and became independent from all three founding organizations.
Leprosy services were integrated into general health services in 1997. In 2006, in order to reflect the integrated nature of the institution, the institution was renamed as Schieffelin Institute of Health – Research and Leprosy Centre (SIH-R & LC).
Over the past six decades SIH-R & LC has treated leprosy and its complications, carried out state of the art research to understand the disease, and trained all levels of health personnel in the management of leprosy.
Contributions of SIH – R & LC
SIH – R & LC’s contributions to different aspects of leprosy are significant.
The leprosy control programme in a defined geographical area around Karigiri started in the 1960’s. In collaboration with the Govt. of India, WHO and ILEP organizations, the prevalence of leprosy was brought down from 250 per 10,000 to less than 1 per 10,000 in 2006.
Pioneering clinical, epidemiological and laboratory research studies into the disease have thrown light on the intriguing aspects of leprosy.
Paul Brand’s path breaking innovation of tendon transfer surgery for leprosy deformed hands and feet, was perfected at Karigiri. This has transformed the limbs and lives of thousands in India and all over the world.
A unique animal laboratory was set up in 1969 to grow leprosy bacilli in the foot pad of mouse and carry out research, as these bacteria do not grow in artificial media unlike other bacteria.
Many best practice methods in the management of leprosy and its complications were evolved.
It was in Karigiri’s control area that the Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) was field-tested by the WHO in 1982. The treatment regimen had formatting impacts on the National and International History of Leprosy.
More than half a century hence, SIH-R & LC, Karigiri continues to focus on leprosy, being a tertiary referral centre for the management of leprosy, training health care workers in leprosy in the integration phase and carrying out research in the unsolved issues of leprosy.
Over the past six decades, SIH-R & LC has grown into a centre of excellence in tertiary care centre for leprosy services, International Leprosy training centre and a state of the art Leprosy Research Centre.