Stanley Hospital is one of the oldest Medical centers in India for medical treatment and education, the seeds for it having been sown as early as 1797 by the East India Company. Stanley Medical College is rated one among the top medical colleges in the country.
In 1781, Madras experienced one of the worst famines in its history, affecting one-third of the population. Black Town, the most densely populated and poorest quarter of the Northern End of the city, was most badly hit. In 1782, the Government of Madras Presidency and St Mary's Church in the Fort jointly launched what was perhaps the first-ever organized charity in India in a small building rented by the Famine Relief Committee just outside the walls of Black Town. As part of relief operations, kanji (rice gruel) was served to people in a thotti (vessel) – and so the name 'kanji thotti' choultry or rest house. This rented house later became the Monegar Choultry, believed to be named after a village headman, a manugakkaran ('monegar'), who ran a gruel centre there for the destitute. Many years later, when Stanley Hospital came into being in the same campus, locals called it the 'kanji thotti hospital'!
The new institution was designated 'The Madras Infirmary and Native Poor Asylum. At that point, there was also "an Idiots Asylum, a Lazaretto or Leper Hospital, and a Foundling ward for the accommodation of pauper children".
Various additions were made to the Native Infirmary from 1868. Four new wards with 40 beds for female patients were constructed. The Northcote Wards, two model wards, for males and females were furnished. Napier Ward was similarly met from a donation from Governor Napier.
In 1882, the Raja of Vizianagaram defrayed the expenses for bringing water from Red Hills to the hospitals. In the 1880s, the Rajah Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar Lying-in Hospital was added, named after its donor.
Between 1937 and 1939, the new clinics opened included those for venereal, leprosy, dental, ear, nose & throat, and ophthalmic, and separate clinics were organised for Departments of Medicine, Surgery, TB, Dermatology, Electro-Cardiography and Orthopaedics. Bed strength also rose from 462 to 724.
By January 1963, annual admission rose to 150. There were by then seven medical and surgical units. Bed strength increased to 840 sanctioned beds besides accommodating 100 more extra patients.
The foundation stone for construction of the Silver Jubilee Auditorium for the College was laid by the then President of India , Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, on October 30, 1964, as a part of its Silver Jubilee celebrations, the Stanley Alumni contributing Rs. One lakh, then..
On the indomitable 'Stanley Spirit', talk to any Stanlean and everyone will wax eloquent on the SMC Hostel, the College magazine, NCC and other activities that added considerably to the growth and development of "that unique personality – the Stanley Medico. Students imbibed not only scientific knowledge and technical skill but also the Stanley Spirit of cooperative endeavour, where staff and students moved and worked together as members of a family with affection and mutual respect," says an early note. Dr. A. Ananthanarayanan, former Dean and Director of the Central Institute of Anatomy, SMC, and Dr. S. Balasubramaniam, former Dean, endorse these words.
From early note "We never bought textbooks, they were all donated by our seniors who guided us in important exams too. All the top university rankers were from Stanley, which was known for its sports prowess and cultural activities too. Students came mostly from middle class backgrounds or were first gen learners, and so were more close-knit. Our homely hostel canteen was known for its 'Oil Chicken' and attracted students from other colleges too!" The College had a well-equipped gym.
The plastic surgery unit at Stanley officially began in 1971 by the efforts of Alumnus Prof. Dr. R. Venkataswami. In 1973, the Hand Injury Service Centre, the first in the country, was started. In 1980, the Centre introduced microsurgery for hand injuries, the first in the country. In 1987, the Department was upgraded as the Institute for Research and Rehabilitation of Hand and the Department of Plastic Surgery (IRRH & DPS), one of the best centres in South and Southeast Asia. Today the Institute has performed more than 330,000 hand injury surgeries and more than 70,000 plastic surgeries, and is even slated to perform the first hand transplant., the only medical college that could boast of one at the time.
This ICMR Stem Cell and Diagnostic Laboratory ensures a zero infection rate that is critical for a transplant programme, and is involved in ongoing research on liver progression cells as a therapeutic option in end-stage liver disease. Currently, the Institute of Surgical Gastroenterology and the Centre for Liver and Pancreatic Diseases at Stanley perform the maximum number of surgeries related to cancer of the pancreas and form to successfully perform liver transplants. Since then, this institute has performed over 35 successful liver transplants. With a Sophisticated medical infrastructure facilities Stanley remains as good as a five-star Hospitals.
The Students' Community with the help of Stanley Alumni Sponsorship started a Green Hands Project in the year 1997, and so far planted around 1,25,000 saplings in and around Chennai city.