CME...The College With a Mission

Tracing fifty years of medical ministry at the College of Medical Evangelists.

W. P. ELLIOTT, General Conference Field Secretary; Chairman of the Board, College of Medical Evangelists

As we look back along the pathway the College of Medical Evangelists has come, it is not difficult to rec­ognize and to trace the guid­ing hand of God in the found­ing and development of this educational center on the Hill Beautiful—Loma Linda. The cumu­lative strength to the cause of God and man lies in its 2,816 graduated physicians, 1,690 graduated nurses, 235 dietitians, and 419 others trained in various related cate­gories, plus the excellent standing of the institution among the great medical edu­cation centers of the country. These are convincing and indelible testimony of the unnumbered times this beloved institution has, out of its very weakness, been made strong.

Under the influence of the substantial and widespread activities of the college today, some whose spiritual discernment is lacking may be inclined to take this great training school for granted, or to ac­count for its existence as a natural develop­ment in the course of human events. But that would not be true of the dedicated men and women who had most to do with its birth and oft-threatened growth. To them the hand of the God of heaven was repeatedly visible, opening closed doors, providing needed friends, and giving vi­sion, ability, and financial aid to surmount the endless array of obstacles.

Fifty years ago there were no such tangi­ble realities as exist today to testify to the advisability or the likely success of the undertaking. Almost the only substantial building materials in hand were courage and faith in God. By and large, there were only mountainous obstacles and good rea­sons, very good reasons, from the expe­rienced human viewpoint, why the project could not succeed and should not be un­dertaken. Good reasons based on the dis­appointments of a previous, somewhat similar endeavor—the American Medical Missionary College—which, in the crisis in Battle Creek about the turn of the century, had been lost to the denomination and stricken with an anemia that soon closed its doors (1909). Good reasons based on the almost total lack of money and the heavy commitments already made to other new medical enterprises. The Paradise Valley Sanitarium and the Glen­dale Sanitarium had just been purchased and opened, neither of which was ade­quately financed. Good reasons based on the fact that the medical authorities who regulate medical education, and without whose approval no medical school would survive, had said the denomination was not able to conduct an approved medical school and should not try it, that they "did not purpose to have any more one-horse medical colleges." At that very time this authority, with increasing determination, was pointing out and aiding to weed out all substandard medical schools in the country.

For that matter, the lack of money, building, equipment, and a properly trained faculty to staff such an educational center was apparent to all; and, further, though the interest of Adventist youth in medical education was evident from the fact that more than one hundred of them were at that time registered in other medi­cal schools of the country, there was a deep-seated lack of confidence that the College of Medical Evangelists could successfully train youth as physicians so that they would be able to pass the necessary State examinations or meet the requirements necessary to qualify for medical practice in many foreign countries. The arguments in this vein were warm and pointed. The college was given a charter by the State of California in December, 1909, that au­thorized it to grant a degree in medicine and other professional fields, but the lack of confidence on the part of Seventh-day Adventist leaders, parents, and youth con­tinued.

1915The Low Point of Uncertainty

In the fall of 1915, the low point of un­certainty for the school, the president re­ported to the constituency only three stu­dents enrolled in the first-year class of the regular medical course. This was partly due, no doubt, to the raised standard of admittance that took effect that year, lift­ing the requirement from one year to two years of college training. Still more dis­couraging to the school administration was the fact that a number already in the school, members of earlier classes, talked of leaving and completing their medical education elsewhere. Another depressing discovery was the lack of sufficient popu­lation in and near Loma Linda to provide properly for the essential clinical training. The resulting talk of plans to do most of the clinical teaching in Los Angeles was disturbing to many, and gave rise to serious questions about the propriety of it.

These perplexities in connection with the school itself were accompanied by the fact that the denomination was just then launching the greatest foreign mission campaign it had yet undertaken. The goal was to push into the centers of great con­tinents such as Africa and South America, as well as the islands of the seas. The church was being urged to give every pos­sible dollar for that purpose, and it was being used as fast as it came in. There was little or no reserve capital. The leading brethren labored under a tremendous bur­den and sense of responsibility. Sister White was acquainted with all this and was party to the planning. Nevertheless, moved by the Spirit of God, she had urged again and again that a medical school be started at Loma Linda. At the same time she was not unaware or unappreciative of the prob­lems the new institution had created. On this point she wrote:

"It was the Lord's purpose that the Loma Linda Sanitarium should become the property of our people, and He brought it about at a time when the rivers of difficulty were full and overflowing their banks."—Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 10, p. 30.

The magnitude and the variety of the difficulties confronting the development of Loma Linda along the lines the Lard was calling for led to many differing opinions among church leaders. Here are a few ex­amples: Give the first two years of medi­cine at the newly established missionary seminary in Washington and affiliate with George Washington University for the last two years; give two years at Loma Linda and let the students take the last two years at schools of their choice; a medical school will bankrupt the denomination and should not be attempted; a school such as the church could possibly hope to conduct could not attain accreditation; give only medical missionary courses and nurses' training at Loma Linda; the institution has incurred a heavy indebtedness and is continuing to increase it, so close it; and then there were those who stanchly main­tained that, with due care to good manage­ment, the counsel of the Spirit of prophecy should be followed with faith and courage, and that moving ahead in such a manner the doors would open before them.

Objectives Begin to Be Clarified

It is hard to realize, without seeing it and reading it, the volume of instruction that came regarding Loma Linda from 1905, when it was purchased, until Sister White's death in 1915. One collection alone con­tains one thousand pages. Nevertheless, it seems that until 1910 it was not clear to many exactly what sort of school Sister White was calling for. In January of that year, at a session of the Pacific Union Con­ference, it was decided to send a letter of direct inquiry to Sister White. This letter indicated that they had read the testimo­nies she had given regarding Loma Linda and believed them.

'Our people are anxious to carry out the light that the Lord has given, but there is a difference of opinion between us in regard to what you mean when you use the term 'a medical school.'"

The concluding paragraph read:

"We are very anxious to preserve unity and harmony of action. In order to do this, we must have a clear understanding of what is to be done. Are we to understand, from what you have written concerning the establishment of a medical school at Loma Linda, that according to the light you have received from the Lord, we are to establish a thoroughly equipped medical school, the graduates from which will be able to take State Board exami­nations and become registered, qualified physi­cians?"

In that same month the letter was returned with her answer. Space here will loot permit giving it in its entirety. One thing is certain—there was nothing equiv­ocal about it. The very first sentence made it clear. She wrote:

-The light given me is, we must provide that which is essential to qualify our youth who desire to be physicians, so that they may intelligently fit themselves to be able to stand the examinations required to prove their efficiency as physicians."

The second paragraph began:

"The medical school at Loma Linda is to be of the highest order."—"Loma Linda Messages," p. 17.

The letter produced the unity of under­standing needed among the attendants at that meeting. I. H. Evans' response, which was one of many, is a good example of the degree of confidence that able, godly men felt in the guidance they received from God through His messenger, Ellen G. White. He pointed out numerous major moves made in the work of the denomination that were first proposed by Sister White and that met with opposition, but when carried out had proved to be of the great­est strength and blessing to the movement. Here is a summarizing sentence: "I can­not think of a single enterprise that has been started by the Spirit of prophecy that has not worked out for the best good of the Lord's work." Speaking of the letter before them he said:

"When the statement of Sister White is read, am sure that the majority of our brethren will feel as we feel tonight—that the Lord has spoken and we will obey.

"Someone may say, 'The time is most inoppor­tune.' But the question is, When the Lord reveals to us his desire that we shall establish a medical school, and do it soon, is the time inopportune for doing such a work? I can conjure up many rea­sons why at this time we are ill prepared to es­tablish and operate a medical school. It is not hard for any man to say that we have not the money at hand. Any man need not be very wise to say, 'We do not know where we shall get medical men trained and qualified to take up this work.' But the question is, Will we establish this medical school, when the Lord has indicated so plainly our duty? I believe, brethren, if we step forward in the fear of God, and make an effort to establish this school, the Lord will help us, and make the way clear."

Thus the work of bringing about under­standing and unity of mind regarding Loma Linda was advanced, but it did not come to full fruit until five years later. The Autumn Council of 1915 was held at Loma Linda. It was a great council, as those who attended it testify to this day. Among the principal matters considered was what to do about Loma Linda and the medical school. The divergence of opinion was still great. At that meeting there was much prayer, earnest study of the testimonies regarding Loma Linda, careful consideration of its operating state­ments and reports, and of possible ways and means to proceed. There was, too, the very thrilling and inspiring offer pre­sented to the council by fifty women who had been holding meetings of their own on the side. They proposed that they be permitted to raise the money to build the much-needed hospital building in Los An­geles, which was to become the White Memorial Hospital. This thrilled the coun­cil. Perhaps this proposal was even the decisive factor in helping the council to reach a decision. Some still living think so.

At any rate, it was solidly voted to pro­ceed with the College of Medical Evange­lists, to establish the clinical division in Los Angeles, and to work to make the school an approved medical education cen­ter for the training of numerous classifi­cations of Seventh-day Adventist medical workers, including physicians. And thus it was that the united support of the de­nomination was at last assured Loma Linda. The resolution passed that day is one the denomination has never failed to honor, though many times since, the rivers of difficulty have seemed altogether im­passable.

It is as though the words of A. G. Daniells on that occasion continue to ring in the ears of the church and its leaders:

"We must face up to this now. We have con­sidered this matter seriously and prayerfully, and have finally reached the decision set before you in these recommendations. Is there anything else in the world to do, but to encourage our young peo­ple who contemplate taking the medical course, to go to this school? When we pass this recommenda­tion, we commit ourselves to the earnest support of this school. . . . We do not say, stop. We say, go on and maintain this school, and make it a success. When I vote for that, I feel in duty bound from this day on to do all I can by my counsel and influence, to help them carry the school through successfully, and that I am pledged to do."—Joint 1915 Fall Council and CME Constitu­ency Meeting Minutes.

The council closed without being able to provide adequate financial help. It seems it was planned that the institution should endeavor to raise the additional money needed by increasing its income through tuition and the operation of its hospitals, and by a vigorous campaign of solicitation. Percy T. Magan, M.D., joined the adminis­tration and took over the main responsi­bility of developing the Los Angeles cam­pus, and what a valiant leader he proved to be. An example of the spirit and pur­pose of the school leaders is stated well in a letter written after the council by Dr. Newton Evans, president of the college, to Dr. David Paulson. Here is a paragraph:

"We have reason to be very thankful to the Lord for His evident working in the plans for the future of Loma Linda, and are weighed down with the increased responsibility which the expansion of our work necessarily entails. Personally, it is my great­est desire that we shall so study the instruction with reference to the work which is to be done here that we can in some degree fulfill the Lord's plan with reference to the work."

The arm of Jehovah had been bared in support of His plan for the college. The future looked more hopeful than at any previous time, and yet it was a future crowded with difficulties and seeming im­possibilities. On numerous occasions the very life of the school would have surely been snuffed out had it not been that the promises of God never fail. There was the time during World War I when the institution had only a C rating and was informed that be­cause of this its med­ical students would not be exempt from military duty. Stu­dents of schools hold­ing an A or B rating were exempt. Provi­dentially, friends of the school in high medical circles came to the rescue and were able to help it take the steps essen­tial to obtain a B rat­ing.

There was the time when the laboratory at Loma Linda was condemned as unsafe, and its use forbidden. It looked as though the school "never would survive," but the Lord had a way, and the present splendid basic science build­ings were provided. Dr. Magan told the constituency in its 1938 meeting that if it had not been for those new buildings, the school would not have survived the 1936 inspection. Again the Lord had turned an imminent catastrophe into a great blessing.

Another evidence of God's care at that time was this unexpected announcement in connection with the rules that would govern the inspection: "Medical schools which are to live will be those who have demonstrated that they have a mission." The College of Medical Evangelists has a mission, and it impressed the inspectors.

Each of these experiences is a thrilling story in itself, and the same is true of many others, the most recent being the establish­ment of the School of Dentistry. When God's purposes for it have been upheld, the College of Medical Evangelists has never failed. We may be equally confident in the future. There is only one condition imposed: "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."—Life Sketches, p. 196.


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W. P. ELLIOTT, General Conference Field Secretary; Chairman of the Board, College of Medical Evangelists

October 1955

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