• Vol. 34 No. 6, 4C–13C
  • 15 July 2005

The Founding of the Medical School in Singapore in 1905



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This article traces briefly the origins of medical education in the early years of the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Penang and Malacca), which culminated in the founding of Medical School in Singapore in 1905. The first attempt was made in the early 19th century, when boys were recruited from local schools as Medical Apprentices to be trained as “assistant doctors”. They were to assist the British doctors and doctors from India in running the medical services. This scheme was not successful. There are 3 landmark years in the evolution of medical education in the Straits Settlements, namely 1852, 1867 and 1904. In 1852, the Governor, to relieve the shortage of staff in the Medical Department, instructed the Principal Civil Medical Officer to organise a proper course of training for Medical Apprentices and to establish a local Medical Service. This scheme was also unsuccessful and the Straits Settlements continued to rely on doctors recruited from India. In 1867, the Straits Settlements were transferred from the India Office to the Colonial Office and became a Crown Colony. The Indian Government requested that all its doctors be sent back. This would have led to the collapse of the Straits Settlements Medical Service. As a stop-gap measure, the Governor offered the Indian doctors appointment in the new Straits Settlements Medical Service, and at the same time arranged with the Madras Government for boys from the Straits Settlements to be trained in its Medical Colleges. The first 2 boys were sent in 1869. In 1889, the Principal Civil Medical Officer proposed to the Governor that a Medical School should be founded in Singapore, but not enough candidates passed the preliminary entrance examination. The plan was shelved and boys continued to be sent to Madras for training. In 1902, the Committee on English Education proposed that a Medical School should be started in Singapore, but senior British doctors opposed this. On 8 September 1904, Mr Tan Jiak Kim and other local community leaders petitioned the Governor to start a Medical School, raised enough funds to establish the School and the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School (predecessor of the King Edward VII College of Medicine, and the Faculties of Medicine, University of Singapore and University of Malaya) was founded on 3 July 1905.

The King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore, was founded in 1905, and produced its first graduates in 1910. Its diploma of Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (LMS) was recognised by the General Medical Council in 1916. Its direct descendants today are the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore, and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

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