Thursday, 9 August 2012

Search 4

22 January 2005

The fourth search is to scrutinize an e-mail sent to me on 18 January 2005 by En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani from Kuala Lumpur. The subject read "Doktor Melayu Pertama". This e-mail had gone into my junk e-mail bin and I almost deleted it without even opening it! I plucked it out from the plenty junk mail and read once through, and replied immediately to him to thank him for his e-mail. I printed his e-mail and only have time to scrutinize it today, the second day of Aidiladha 1425 Hijrah (22 January 2005) which is a holiday in Kelantan. This is a 1.5 A4 page e-mail with a whole lot of information to digest.

En. Mohd. Fadli is originally from Kelantan. He is the director of an academy based in Kuala Lumpur. He is a writer and currently working on a PhD project. He mentioned four names and raised many possibilities concerning the early doctors. En. Mohd. Fadli had initially believed that Dr. Abbas Alias was the first Malay doctor from the Peninsular Malay State (Semenanjung Tanah Melayu); well, not anymore - Editor.

En. Mohd. Fadli pointed out that Prof. William Roff named Dr. Abdul Samad as the first Malay doctor (Roff, 2000).

En. Mohd. Fadli mentioned about another writer, Tuan Haji Subky Latiff, with whom he shared his initial knowledge about Dr. Abbas Alias being the first Malay doctor. Tuan Haji Subky subsequently published about Dr. Abbas Alias (Subky Abd. Latiff, 2004). Later on, Tuan Haji Subky informed En. Mohd. Fadli that this piece of information was false. This came about following a ceremony to commemorate Dr. Abbas Alias in which Tuan Haji Subky quoted Dr. Abbas Alias as the first Malay doctor but was later informed by someone that Dr. Abdul Latiff bin Abdul Razak was the first Malay doctor. Thanks for correcting the misinformation - Editor.

En. Mohd. Fadli quoted an article by JS Cheah (2003) in the Singapore Medical Journal website in which he found that on 3 July 1905, there were 23 people who entered the medical college. They comprised 9 Chinese, 6 Eurasians, 5 Tamil, 1 Ceylonese1 Malay, and 1 European.

I am still wondering how much detail was kept about each student in the early days considering the fact that there were no computers then!

My question is, was this the first batch of doctors which included the first Malay? Who was this 1 Malay?

It seems that the one Malay who entered was also a minority in a land that was his homeland! This makes me wonder when did the Malays first come to terms with western medicine and accepted it and allowed their children to learn the medical curriculum based on western standards. It seems our medical roots in western medicine began in 1905 with this first Malay entering into the Singapore based medical school. This is interesting. What was going through the mind of this first Malay? Was it a Malay male or female? Who coached this first Malay to go to study medicine? Who was his mentor? What made him decide to do medicine? There must be some element in his upbringing or growing up years that ticked inside him and there must be a clear path that led him to be the first Malay doctor. Who was he? How can we be certain about our past?

The Eurasians catch my attention - who were they anyway? IF a white male was married to a Malay woman, would the son be considered Malay or Eurasian? And what happens vise-versa? Given that under Islamic regulation, a Malay woman cannot marry a non-Muslim male (some food for thought). IF a Malay man married a white woman, the son is automatically recorded as Malay. The fact that there were 6 Eurasians indicates that mixed marriages were common then (may be now too?).

It looks to me, that the ethnic composition of the 1905 batch is queer. It does not reflect the composition of the Malaysian population that we see today. It does not resemble the ethnic make-up of students in the medical schools in Malaysia today. Something is pointing to an element of wealth (vs. poverty) in the early days. The fact that there were 39% Chinese, 26 Eurasians, ~22% Tamils, ~4% (actually only one student) each Ceylonese, Malay, and European. From an economic standpoint, it justifies to see a majority of students coming from wealthy families (Chinese and Eurasians) and less from the poorer families (Ceylonese and Malay). The Tamil families fared alright? Was politics influential in admitting students into medical school then? Was there discrimination?

Next question, how long was the initial medical course? Was it five or six years?

En. Mohd. Fadli also referred to the NUS Alumni Society (National University of Singapore Society, NUSS) website which recorded that in 1910, seven people graduated and received their Licentiate of Medical Surgery (LMS) - this was the first batch of graduates.

My question now is WHY didn't all 23 people who entered on 3 July 1905 all graduate in 1910 (i.e., at the same time)? Why did only seven doctors graduate (>30% graduated; <70% did not)? Who were the seven who graduated in 1910? Did the others (a majority) face difficulties? What were some of the problems faced by these doctors that affected their education and thus delayed their graduation? How badly did the problems affect their education? What was their major problem? Was it poverty or was it communicable diseases that affected our doctors? Was tuberculosis and leprosy widespread and difficult to tackle? Did something affect our doctors? What was our economy like during that time? What was the average family income? What was the cost of medical education during that time? What were the real problems then? How expensive was this course? Who could afford this course? Was it open to everyone? How was selection performed? How did the students travel to attend the medical college?

There are certainly many possibilities. For the time being, I will still hold on to the information gathered thus far, that for our Telehealth record on the history of medicine, Dr. Abdul Latiff bin Abdul Razak was our first Malay doctor. His name will still head my list of the early Malay doctors until I get another name (Dr. Abdul Samad is a possibility). He possibly graduated in the second batch in 1911.

Datuk Dr. Haji Abbas Alias
Graduated Class of 1936*
Deceased (1914 - 2004)
Initially believed to be the first Malay doctor in Malaya (Mohd Fadli Ghani, 2004). He was the second president of PAS (Presiden PAS Kedua, 1953-1956). He was also the Health Director of Terengganu, Pahang, Melaka and Perak (Pengarah Kesihatan Terengganu, Pahang, Melaka dan Perak). His last post was as the Senior Director of Health Malaysia (Pengarah Kanan Kesihatan Malaysia). He had also held other posts following retirement such as the Director of University Hospital Kuala Lumpur (Pengarah Hospital Universiti Kuala Lumpur). He was also the founder of Pantai Medical Centre in Malaysia.
*Writer - En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani
Writer - Tuan Haji Subky Latiff
Dr. Abdul Samad
A Singaporean. Noted as the first Malay to enter the Singapore medical school (Roff, 2000). Led the Singaporean Muslim Association (Persatuan Islam Singapura, 1920-1928). He was the founder of the Singaporean United Malay (Kesatuan Melayu Singapura, KMS) along with En. Mohd. Eunos Abdullah in 1927.
Writer - Professor William Roff
Dr. Hamzah b Taib 
March 1923

Dr. Hamzah opened a clinic in Johor. He was active in the Lembaga Melayu Johor.
Deceased late 1940s.
Second wife - Puan Khadijah bt. Sidek
Writer - En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani

BIG QUESTIONS as raised by En. Mohd. Fadli:
1. Who was the first Malay who entered the medical college on 3 July 1905?
2. Was he Dr. Abdul Latiff Abdul Razak or Dr. Abdul Samad?
3. Did Dr. Abdul Samad graduate in 1910 in the first batch?

En. Mohd. Fadli closed his e-mail with the need to continue to search and that he will send me new information if any. He also suggested me to explore the NUS alumni website for more details. I really appreciate his assistance in this respect.


En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani provided plenty of useful information in his e-mail on 18 January 2005. I take this opportunity to thank him for his assistance in setting the Malay doctors records straight.

En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani
(writer & PhD student)
Pengarah Akademi Kajian Kota, Kuala Lumpur
His article/book include:
Mohd Fadli Ghani (2004). "Datuk Dr Haji Abbas Alias (1914 - 2004): Yang Dipertua Agung PAS Dalam Kenangan". Buku Cenderamata, Muktamar Tahunan Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat Ke-45, Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat, Kuala Lumpur.
En. Mohd. Fadli Ghani has also included a biography on Dr. Abbas Alias in his upcoming book on political leaders.

Tuan Haji Subky Latiff
Subky Abd. Latiff (2004). "Dr Abbas Enggan Taja UMNO, Mati Dalam PAS". Buletin Demokrasi, Bil.50, 31 Ogos, m.s. 22.

Professor William Roff
William Roff (2000). "The Origins of Malay Nationalism", Oxford Publishing, London. page 189.

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

National University of Singapore Society (NUSS)

Puan Khadijah bt. Sidek
Wife of Dr. Hamzah b Taib (Class of 1923. See Searches 1 and 4). Ex-Member of Parliament Dungun, ex-Ketua Wanita UMNO, ex-Ketua Muslimat PAS.

Telehealth Research Group
School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia