TELEHEALTH RESEARCH GROUP
SCHOOL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES
UNIVERSITI SAINS MALAYSIA
16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelantan
History of Medicine in Malaya - Who were the early Malay doctors?
by Faridah Abdul Rashid. Associate Professor, Dept. of Chemical Pathology, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus. 1 January 2006
There is a lot not written about the history of medicine in Malaya (previously), now Malaysia. The history of medicine in Malaya is fragmented, mostly narrated by grandparents and parents.
Up until Search 4 (22 January 2005), two people (Dr. Bakiah and En. Mohd. Fadli) have e-mailed me to ask for clarification with regard to the definition of 'early'. I know that the word 'early' has a primitive connotation, as if we had doctors in the Stone Age period! 'Early' in the context of writing the history of medicine for telehealth should be taken to mean burgeoning (membangun dengan pesat). The source of inspiration to write this article is to focus on the activities of the few doctors who were serving Malaya at the time when folk medicine was dominant and western medicine was not widely accepted or practised in the land of the Malays (Tanah Melayu). What I had in mind initially was to bank every Malay doctor's name for our Telehealth records for Malaysia. This includes those who are serving overseas. But the task seems daunting, next to impossible. So, I decided to start somewhere by limiting the time frame instead. The easiest would be for me to collect their names in batches; the first batch beginning 1900 up until our independence, 31 August 1957 (Merdeka), - this is what I regard as 'early'. So I have used the phrase 'early Malay doctors' to essentially refer to those Malay doctors who graduated between 1900 and 31 August 1957. If I use the term "pre-independence", this may seem to put a political connotation to what I feel should be limited to medicine and its intrinsics, since I am trying to write for telehealth and not politics. Similarly, the batch of doctors following Merdeka can be referred as 'Malaysia's modern doctors' or 'Malaysia's 21st Century doctors' which sounds futuristic (food for thought if anyone is considering writing about our doctors for the post-Merdeka period).
I had a chance to discuss about our roots in medicine after Search 44 on 8 June 2005 with En. Fadli Ghani (Kuala Lumpur), Dr. Abu Kholdun Al-Mahmood (Dhaka, Bangladesh), Tengku Ahmad Damitri Al-Astani bin Tengku Din (Kelantan), En. Fauzi Man (Kelantan) and my husband, Affandi Hussien (Kelantan). It seems that our roots in medicine is a continuum from the time of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. and Avicenna and even earlier. En. Fadli has clearly pointed this out and I have spoken to a number of Malay men who also agree that some of the medical practices date back to the time of the prophets.