Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Review of Diseases in Malaysia

Lim Kean Ghee, A Review of Diseases in Malaysia. 2001, Second edition. 456 pp. ISBN 983-40800-0-X. (RM80). Published by Lim Kean Ghee, 5, Upper Museum Road, Taiping 34000, Malaysia. E-mail:

Dr Lim Kean Ghee is a consultant surgeon in private practice. He had previously served in the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals as medical officer and consultant surgeon.

The book is a compilation of diseases in Malaysia. It is a good resource since it covers most diseases and gives citations. Most of the information is not easily obtained elsewhere and often inaccessible to researchers.

The Preface gives an important message to all doctors who wish to practise in Malaysia. It reminds us that our medical textbooks are mostly written by doctors in Britain and United States whilst we try to apply such texts in our Malaysian context. While the diseases are similar the disease severity and pattern of disease spread are often dissimilar. Thus, our management of the same diseases cannot be similar and cannot be verbatim from such textbooks.

A second message in the Preface is prior research data of a locality would serve as basis for further research. Thus, this book captures prior research data for that purpose.

A third message in the Preface is for medical students to use the book to familiarise themselves with data for local diseases since they will rejoin and serve the Malaysian community upon graduation.

A fourth message in the Preface is for non medicos (including lawyers, researchers, etc) who need to quickly refresh themselves on knowledge of Malaysian diseases which we don't find in medical textbooks written by the West.

Reviews of the book are available online:

Singapore Medical Journal:
Singapore Med J 2006; 47(12) : 1101

Malaysian Family Physician:
Malaysian Family Physician 2006; Volume 1, Number 1, page 45

Medical Journal of Malaysia:
Reviewed by Akhtar Qureshi, International Medical University
Med J Malaysia Vol 57 No 2 June 2002

I actually bought this book because this was exactly what I needed for research and writing. I needed past health & disease data to verify disease patterns and spread in order to account for the high number of deaths resulting from malaria prior to, during and after the Japanese war. The postwar period up till Merdeka also recorded many deaths from malaria among the Malay families so far under study. I am a bit upset about our past health and disease statistics and accounts by families as in none of the narratives by the families have they mentioned quinine which we know the Malay people use for malaria. I am most concerned about malaria since I grew up in Malaysia after the Independence when malaria was the number one killer before heart disease superseded it. We had to use mosquito nets at night and also use ubat nyamuk made from cow dung to fumigate our bedrooms at night. So bad was the situation with malaria that I also had a classmate who died of malaria in 1972 in Malacca. We were 14. Measures to destroy the Anopheles mosquito breeding grounds were stepped up and malaria was then well-controlled. Malaria is non existent in Malaysia today. Even Gua Musang in Kelantan has ceased to report any malaria cases - the last being in the early 1980s. When I worked with Hospital USM Diagnostic Labs in 1983-5 I didn't hear of any malaria cases. Researchers from outside Malaysia still come to want to do "malaria research" in Malaysia when malaria has been non existent for so long now. The last group of "mosquito researchers" was an Australian group that came to our Routine Lab in Chemical Pathology in 1994 to try and determine serum electrolytes for malaria cases when they hoped to get such cases from Gua Musang but the entire research came to nought! Haven't they read about Malaysia before coming? They should read this book then.