Dr. Joseph Plumb Cochran

Oct. 04

Joseph Plumb Cochran was born on January 14, 1855 in Urmia, Qajar Iran. During his youth he learned the local languages of Assyrian, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish, in addition to English and Persian. When he was a teenager, he decided to travel to America in 1868 and ended up staying in Buffalo, New York. He studied medicine at New York Medical College where he graduated in 1876. He also did 2 years of residency and focused on surgery, infectious diseases, and gynecology.

Ultimately, he decided to return to Urmia and was assigned by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions as a missionary physician to Persia. Joseph requested from congregation members of the Westminster Church of Buffalo and the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission funding for what would eventually become the Westminster Hospital. The building of the hospital was approved and construction was completed in 1882.

Joseph’s greatest legacy was creating and establishing a modern medical school called Westminster College, which was one of the first of its kind in Iran. He was the first director of the medical school, but was also joined by other American medical doctors, including Dr Wright, Dr Homlz, Thomas Langdon van Norden, and Emma T. Miller. Joseph directed the school for 27 years where there would be 26 medical students that would graduate from this school.

Joseph was a true pioneer when it came to medicine in Iran. Creating and developing the first medical school was a truly noble endeavor and many people benefited from it.

Written by: Nino Aishou



Esmail Yourdshahian, Farrokh Ghavam, Mohhamad-Hassan Ansari, Life of Dr. Joseph Plumb Cochran, Founder of Iran’s First Contemporary Medical College, Archives of Iranian Medicine, Academy of Medical Sciences, Islamic Republic of Iran, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April 2002).

Robert E. Speer, “The Hakim Sahib”, The Foreign Doctor. A biography of Joseph Plumb Cochran, M.D., of Persia, Illustrated (Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1911).

Hooman Estelami, The Americans of Urumia: Iran’s First Americans and their Mission to the Assyrian Christians (Bahar Books, LLC) 2021

Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, August 22). Joseph Cochran. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 1, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Cochran