Thursday, 9 August 2012

Search 10

1 May 2005 (Labour Day, after isya')

The tenth search is to scrutinise an editorial written by Professor JS Cheah ( entitled "Approaching 100 Years of Medical and University Education in Singapore" which appeared in Singapore Medical Journal 2003, volume 44, number 1, pages 1-3. This article helps to improve on the facts and gaps accumulated thus far. It is now 9.43 pm.

Founding of the Medical School, Singapore (3 July 1905)
The first sentence of Professor Cheah's editorial states that the Medical School in Singapore was founded on 3 July 1905 with an enrolment of 23 students (this answers my query in Search 9). It was first founded as the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School. Its name was changed to King Edward VII Medical School, Singapore in 1913. This major name change was significant as it marked the non ownership of the medical school by both the Straits Settlement and the Government of the Federated Malay States. The new name indicated the acquisition of the medical school by British Malaya. This then became the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS).

According to the first Principal of the Medical School, Dr. Gerald Dudley Freer, who was Principal between 3 July 1905 - 3 February 1909, the buildings of the Female Lunatic Asylum were altered and equipped to become the Medical School which was close to the General Hospital where the medical students performed part of their training. Of the 23 medical students who enrolled, only one was a Malay who was he? Dr. Freer left his post on 3 February 1909 to become Senior Medical Officer, Selangor by appointment.

Before the Medical School was set up in 1905, locals (unspecified) were trained for the medical service in the Straits Settlement as either Assistant Apothecary, Hospital Dresser, or Sub-Assistant Surgeon. There was clearly discrimination in that only Britons could be Medical Officers and the locals could only be medical subordinates even though it was Malaya (land of the Malay people). It must be very humiliating for the Malays being treated as second class citizens in their own land.

History of medical education in Singapore and The Straits between 1786 - 1871 and 1819-1990 has been described in by Lee Yong Kiat. I do not have access to this book/article currently. It should be good to catch hold of this article to see if the clergy Malay doctors (tabib) have been included as this is most appropriate when writing about history of medicine in Malaya.

A historical account of the Medical School between 1905 - 1949 has been written by Faris DWG in 1949. I do not have access to this article.

100 Anniversary of the Medical School, Singapore (3 July 2005)
The Medical School also made commemorative publications to mark its 50th, 60th, 75th and 90th anniversaries. I do not have access to these publications. These publications contain list of graduates plus other useful information.

The 100th anniversary publication is hoped to be spectacular and to contain more accurate historical information (which I feel is timely).

Both the Faculty of Medicine, NUS and NUS itself will celebrate their 100th Anniversary on 3 July 2005 (two months from the time of this writing).

Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)
The Japanese invasion of Malaya occurred between 1941-1945 and is better regarded as the Japanese Occupation. It totally disrupted the operation of the Medical School and practically everything came to a halt. The Japanese Occupation is mostly linked to a desolate life, utter barbarism, terrorism, victimisation and brutal killings of all age groups. Japanese was used as the medium of instruction. It was very shocking to hear about the Japanese Occupation from our own parents who lived during this reign of terror. I can never imagine that humans can take on and act more brutal than animals.

The Japanese Military Administration  reopened the Medical College on 27 April 1943 and it was known as the Marei Ika Daigaku or Syonan Medical College. It occupied Tan Tock Seng Hospital (Hakua Byoin). The Ika Daigaku was relocated to the General Hospital, Malacca in February 1944 and ended its service with the end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945. This is a new piece of information to me as I was born in General Hospital, Malacca in 1958 but my own late mother never mentioned of Ika Daigaku to me when we lived in Malacca between 1958-1963 and 1972-1973. But I can still recall General Hospital, Malacca as being a haunted place. But I remember my mother telling me that a Japanese soldier had hung himself to death in my bedroom toilet in our rented double-storey bungalow among the government teachers quarters in Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu in Durian Daun, Malacca. Over in Sekolah Menengah Kubang Kerian 1, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan is the secondary school closest to USM. This school has since observed many haunting episodes on the very site of the brutal killings performed during the Japanese Occupation. This haunted site presently houses the school's musalla.

The Medical College resumed classes in June 1946 when the British reoccupied Singapore and Malaya.

Founding of University Malaya (UM) (1949)
The King Edward VII College of Medicine amalgamated with Raffles College in 1949 to become University Malaya (better known as UM to many) and became its Faculty of Medicine.

It became the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Singapore in 1962. (I was 4 years old.)

Founding of Singapore (1965)
Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819.
Singapore ceded and became independent from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. (I was in Standard 1, Sultana Asma Primary School, Alor Star, Kedah.)
Singapore became Republic of Singapore.

Founding of the National University of Singapore (NUS) (1982)
University of Singapore became the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1982. (I had just returned from the USA after my MSc.)

It is now 11.55 pm. I will stop here for tonight.


JS Cheah. Approaching 100 Years of Medical and University in Singapore. Singapore Med J. 2003. Vol. 44(1):1-3. Download article from 
E-mail Professor JS Cheah at

Establishment, anniversaries and commemoration
Medical School, Singapore was established: 3 July 1905
50th Anniversary: 3 July 1955
60th Anniversary: 3 July 1965
75th Anniversary: 3 July 1980
90th Anniversary: 3 July 1995
100th Anniversary: 3 July 2005
I will need these references if anyone can get them for me:
  • Fifty Years of Medical Education. Singapore: Stamford Press, 1955.
  • Sixty Years of Medical Education, 1905-1965. Singapore: Stamford Press, 1965.
  • 75 Years (1905-1980) of Medical Education. Singapore: Khai Wah Litho (Pte) Ltd, 1980.
  • A Continuity of Ideals: Commemorating 90 Years of Medical Education (1905-1995). Medical Faculty, National University of Singapore. Singapore: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, 1995.
Medical history
Lee Yong Kiat. The Medical History of Early Singapore. Tokyo: South East Asia Medical Centre, 1978.

Lee Yong Kiat. History of College of Medicine Building, Medical Education & Medical Services in Singapore, 1819-1990. Singapore: Annals, ACADMED, 1992.

Faris DWG. History of the King Edward VII College of Medicine Singapore 1905 - 1949. Med J Malaya 1949; 4:3-17.

Straits Settlements Annual Report of the Medical Department 1907; 73-5
Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942-1945)
Cheah JS, Tay G. The Marei Ika Daigaku (Syonan Medical College) during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942-1945).

Telehealth Research Group
School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia