Birth of a faculty


The Faculty of Medicine was the first school that was instituted at Universiti Malaya (UM) in 1905 following the Education Commission report that the colonial region in Southeast Asia needed to address the shortage of medical assistants in Singapore and Penang.

Despite the odds, in June 1905, under the Straits Legislative Council of Malaya, the legislation for the establishment of a medical college in Singapore was passed.

Following a public appeal for funds, the school opened in July 1905 but only started its courses in September the same year.

It became known as The Straits and Federate Malay States Government Medical School.

There were 17 medical students in the beginning including four attending the hospital attendants’ course.

But the school enrolment increased five fold to a total of 90 medical students and 30 trainee hospital assistants five years later.

In November 1913, the school became known as the King Edward VII School of Medicine.

This was made possible when a local physician and a strong proponent for a medical school to be established in Malaya, Dr Lim Boon Keng started a memorial fund.

By 1912, $120,000 was collected as an endowment to start this medical school.

There were notable changes over the years which included the elevation of the school to college in 1921, new teachers and professorial chairs.

The college remained functional during the Second World War and continued to exist until after the war.

A breakthrough for the setting up of a university in Malaya came about when Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders who headed the commission to study the development of tertiary education in Malaya, was convinced it was ready for a university after discussions with the King Edward VII College alumni association members and the Medical College Students Union.

In 1948, the Carr-Saunders Commission supported the idea for a university in Malaya to be established and as a result, in 1949 the name University of Malaya was chartered.

A merger between King Edward VII College of Medicine and Raffles College in October 1949 formed the basis of what is recognised today as the University of Malaya.

Following the Carr-Saunders Commission’s report, the rebranding of the school of medicine to the new faculty of medicine took place with major changes in the governance and infrastructure.

With the division of the university into two autonomous campuses in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in 1959, and the passing of legislation in 1961 by both governments of Malaya and Singapore to make UM a national university, University of Malaya became permanently located in Kuala Lumpur as of January 1962.

This led to the new faculty of medicine in Kuala Lumpur, with the development of a brand new teaching and research facility and its own 500-bed hospital.

The first meeting of the faculty members was held in November 1962.

Prof Tan Sri Dr T J Danaraj was appointed the first dean in February 1963.

Pre-medical students were first admitted into the faculty in May 1963 and construction of the faculty building at its present site started in July the same year.

The first batch of medical students was admitted in May 1964 and graduated in June 1969. The faculty’s facilities were already in use from 1963.

The faculty buildings was officially opened on August 2, 1965 followed by the University Hospital on August 5, 1968 (which later became known as the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre).

The faculty focused on producing doctors and medical personnel in the beginning.

In addition to strengthening medical education for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in a broad range of health sciences including medicine, nursing, pharmacy and biomedical science and imaging, research has also become a key component to ensure it remains relevant and at the forefront of medical and biological research.

Some of its key contributions include the performance of the country’s first conjoint twin separation, the first liver and kidney transplantations, the discovery of the deadly Nipah virus and more recently, the first craniofacial surgery using the Monobloc distraction osteogenesis technique in collaboration with the Faculty of Dentistry.

Its plans include expanding research in five key areas namely infectious diseases and immunity, cancer, drug discovery and development, public health and non communicable diseases and ageing and regenerative medicine.

● Information sourced from Faculty of Medicine Building on Heritage.

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