Alumni Services

Medical missionary milestone

Since it was established in 1841, the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society International has held strong links with medical students at the University of Edinburgh.

Members of Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society in 1884
Members of Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society in 1884

Founded in 1841 as the Edinburgh Association for Sending Medical Aid to Foreign Countries, it was renamed as the the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society (EMMS) in 1843.

Edinburgh alumni were amongst the charity’s founding members and physician and philosopher Dr John Abercrombie was its first president. Another Edinburgh alumnus, Dr Neil MacVicar established the charity’s first aid project in Malawi in 1895.

Student support

EMMS International has been supporting medical students from the mid nineteenth century. Back then, the charity was based on the Cowgate where Edinburgh medics prepared for missionary work overseas by treating local residents.

In their 175th anniversary year the charity's connection with medical students continues.

All medical students undertake an 8 week elective during their fifth year at Edinburgh. They are usually attached to a local hospital and are encouraged to travel to developing countries. For many students a bursary can make a huge difference at this point in their studies. Jossie Amer and Kirsty McCance are current Edinburgh students whose electives were supported by EMMS International.

African electives

Jossie Amer and colleagues during her elective in Tanzania
Jossie Amer and colleagues during her elective in Tanzania.

Jossie divided her 8 week elective between a small rural hospital in Zambia, including a very busy Accident and Emergency department, and a larger hospital in Swaziland, where she undertook general medicine, pediatrics and ophthalmology.

For both Jossie and Kirsty the bursary from EMMS International really made a difference by removing financial pressures, and allowing them to concentrate on medicine.

Transforming lives

Numerous Edinburgh alumni have been, and continue to be, involved with EMMS International.

Catherine Harrison graduated from Edinburgh Medical School in 2007 having completed her medical elective at a mission hospital in rural Africa. Since graduation, Catherine has become a trustee and loves being involved with a charity that is transforming lives worldwide. 

Alison Steele graduated from Edinburgh in 2014 with an MSC in International Development.  She loved both her course and her involvement in the pro-bono student led consultancy club, FreshSight.  Alison’s involvement in FreshSight projects played a huge part in where she finds herself today, as a development officer for EMMS International.

My medical elective gave me a real insight into medicine based on necessity, and made me realise how blessed we are to have the National Health Service.

Catherine Harrison

Up for a challenge

Alison Steele
Alumna Alison Steel of EMMS International.

EMMS are holding an array of events to celebrate their 175th anniversary in 2016. As well as exhibitions, conferences and receptions, there are fundraising challenges including a Forth Rail Bridge abseil, a zip slide across the Clyde and the TriMalawi Challenge.

After cycling through Malawi in 2015, Alison is returning this year to take on the TriMalawi Challenge. The challenge involves a trek up Mount Mulanje, kayaking across Cape Maclear and a return to the saddle for a ride through rural Malawian villages.

After completing the challenge, Alison and teammates will be visiting Mulanje Mission Hospital to see how donations are helping to fund work to prevent the spread of Malaria.

Related links

Edinburgh Medical School

EMMS International

Find out more about the TriMalawi Challenge