Lee Yong Kiat



Lee Yong Kiat (Prof) (b. 8 October 1928, Singapore–d. 22 April 2013, Singapore) was a pioneering physician and medical administrator. He was the medical superintendent at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and then at Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) during the 1960s. From 1971 to 1988, he was the chief of medicine at Thomson Road General Hospital. He was well known as a professor of medicine who groomed a whole generation of doctors, as well as a medical historian who produced numerous publications covering the medical history of Singapore.1

Early life and education
Lee was born the eldest son of Lee Choon Eng, a headmaster, and his wife, Lim Swee Joo. During the Japanese Occupation, Lee lost his father and had to endure great hardship to fend for his mother and siblings.2 After World War II, Lee continued his studies at the Anglo-Chinese School and won the Seow Poh Leng Medal for being the top student of the school in the 1947 Cambridge examination. The following year, Lee was awarded an entrance scholarship to study medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine at the University of Malaya campus in Singapore. In 1954, he obtained a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBBS) degree with distinction in medicine, and later in 1958 attained membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP), London and Edinburgh. Lee subsequently obtained a bachelor’s in laws from London in 1962 and a doctorate in medicine (MD) from the University of Singapore in 1965. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College (FRCP) Edinburgh in 1969, the FRCP London in 1972 and Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) in 1975.3


Physician and medical administrator career
After graduating from the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1954, Lee began his medical career at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where he progressed from house physician, house surgeon, medical registrar and finally senior registrar in internal medicine.4 He then entered medical administration in the early 1960s by serving as the medical superintendent at TTSH and thereafter KKH. During his time in charge at KKH (1962 to 1965), Lee helped to upgrade the health services of the hospital. He established an outpatient clinic for women with pregnancy complications, created a practice of daily ward rounds by doctors to see their patients, and started a weekly teaching session for medical students on the medical complications of pregnancy.5

After obtaining his doctorate in 1965, Lee returned to clinical medicine, serving as a physician under Gwee Ah Leng in Medical Unit III of SGH.6 In 1971, Lee became chief of medicine at Thomson Road General Hospital (renamed Toa Payoh Hospital in 1975 and later merged with Changi Hospital to become part of Changi General Hospital in 1998). During his tenure as medical chief (1971 to 1988), the hospital underwent a series of improvements in facilities and services. In the 1970s, the X-ray and Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments began 24-hour service, and class B2 wards were introduced – the first among local hospitals – in 1975 to give patients greater choice within the subsidised classes. In the 1980s, the A&E department became fully computerised, and starting from 1985, the hospital began to focus on two specialisations, urology and gastroenterology.7


Throughout his illustrious medical career, Lee held numerous other key appointments. He served as a doctor to former presidents Yusof Ishak and Benjamin Sheares.8 He was a member of the University of Singapore Council (1965 to 1980) and the Singapore Medical Council (1969 to 1983); he was also the chairman of the preliminary proceedings committee at the latter. In addition, Lee served in various committees of the Ministry of Health such as the advertisements advisory committee from 1983 to 1986.9

Clinical professor
During his time at Thomson Road General Hospital/Toa Payoh Hospital, Lee also taught undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental students at the University of Singapore. He helped to groom many of the current leading medical doctors in Singapore such as Chee Yam Cheng, Walter Tan, Fock Kwong Ming, Patrick Tan, Koh Tian Hai, Arthur Tan, Ong Yong Yau, Michael Yap and Chua Kit Leng. Lee was a popular teacher. One of his students vividly remembered him as an engaging and kind examiner and enjoyed his unique style of teaching. Lee combined undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, and encouraged his students to learn by asking questions. In recognition of his contributions to medical teaching, Lee was appointed as clinical professor of medicine by the University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore) in the 1970s.10


Medical historian
Besides having carved out careers in medical administration, and medical practice and education, Lee was also well known as a medical historian.11 Lee’s articles appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as the Singapore Medical Journal, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore. His authored works covered a wide range of subjects – including mental and venereal diseases, anaesthesia, smallpox, obstetrics and gynaecology as well as topics such as Singapore history, medical education in Singapore, nursing and the medical history of Singapore.12

One of Lee’s key publications is The Medical History of Early Singapore (1978).13 The book traces the medical history of Singapore from 1819 to 1874. By covering the history of SGH, Pauper Hospital (original name of TTSH), TTSH, Lunatic Asylum and the Municipal Health Department, the book provides an overview of the development of medical facilities in colonial Singapore. In addition, the book gives an account of the various major diseases that plagued the early communities of Singapore, such as smallpox, cholera and leprosy.14

Retirement and death
Following his retirement as medical chief at Toa Payoh Hospital in 1988, Lee continued his clinical practice and was later made an emeritus consultant at the Changi General Hospital in recognition of his contributions to laying the foundation of the hospital while he was heading Toa Payoh Hospital. He also participated in the Changi General Hospital’s continuing medical education programmes such as journal readings, case discussions and postgraduate teaching rounds.15 After many months of illness, Lee passed away on 22 April 2013.16

Family
Lee married his wife Koh Chye Neo in 1954. He was survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.17


Timeline18
8 Oct 1928:
Born in Singapore to Lee Choon Eng and Lim Swee Joo.

1947: Graduates from Anglo-Chinese School as top student.
1948–1954: Studies medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine, University of Malaya (Singapore campus), on a scholarship and graduates with an MBBS degree with distinction in internal medicine.
1954: Marries Koh Chye Neo. Begins his medical career at SGH, where he eventually becomes senior registrar in internal medicine.
1958: Obtains MRCP (London and Edinburgh).
1960–1961: Serves as medical superintendent at TTSH.
1962: Becomes first local medical doctor in the postwar period to obtain a law degree from London.
1962–1965: Serves as medical superintendent at KKH.
1965: Obtains MD from the University of Singapore and subsequently serves as a physician at SGH.
1965–1980: Member of the University of Singapore Council.
1969: Elected FRCP Edinburgh.
1969–1983: Member of the Singapore Medical Council.
1971–1988: Serves as chief of medicine at Thomson Road General Hospital (renamed Toa Payoh Hospital in 1975).
1972: Elected FRCP London.
1975: Elected FRACP.
1999: Conferred title of emeritus consultant at the Changi General Hospital.19
2004: Made honorary member of the Singapore Medical Association.20
22 Apr 2013: Dies from illness in Singapore at the age of 84.

Selected awards
Lee was honoured with the Public Administration Medal (Silver) and the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1968 and 1969 respectively.21

Selected works
Books

Lee, Y. K. (1978). The medical history of early Singapore. Tokyo: Southeast Asian Medical Information Center.
(Call no.: RSING 610.95957 LEE)

Lee, Y. K. (1977). The non-clinical aspects of induced abortion in Singapore. Singapore: University of Singapore Library, Microfilm Services Dept.
(Call no.: RCLOS 363.46095957 LEE)

Lee, Y. K. (Ed.). (1992). History of College of Medicine building, medical education and medical services in Singapore, 1819–1900. Singapore: Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 610.7115957 HIS)

Journal articles
Lee, Y. K. (1973). The grand jury in early Singapore, 1819–1873. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 46(2), 55–150.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS)

Lee, Y. K. (1974). Forensic medicine in early Singapore. Singapore Medical Journal, 15(1), 84–90.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (1977). The origins of the Municipal Health Department. Singapore Medical Journal, 18(3), 189–191.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (1992). The mental disease hospital, Singapore (the first 100 years) – A short history (part I). Singapore Medical Journal, 33(4), 386–392.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (1992). The mental disease hospital, Singapore (the first 100 years) – A short history (part II). Singapore Medical Journal, 33(5), 500–509.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (1992). The mental disease hospital, Singapore (the first 100 years) – A short history (part III). Singapore Medical Journal, 33(6), 623–630.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (1993). The mental disease hospital, Singapore (the first 100 years) – A short history (part IV). Singapore Medical Journal, 34(1), 67–73.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)

Lee, Y. K. (2005). The founding of the medical school in Singapore in 1905. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 34(6), 4C–13C.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 AMSAAM)

Lee, Y. K. (2005). Nursing and the beginnings of specialised nursing in early Singapore. Singapore Medical Journal, 46(11), 600–608.
(Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)



Author
Lim Tin Seng




References
1. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (261). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf; Chew, C. H. (2013, May). Professor Lee Yong Kiat (8 October 1928– 22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 263–264 (263). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p263.pdf; Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore. Singapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS); Changi General Hospital (2000). Rising to the challenge: A story of commitment, determination and building on a vision, 1959–1999. Singapore: Changi General Hospital, pp. 55–56. (Call no.: SING 362.11095957 RIS)
2. Chew, C. H. (n.d.). College roll: Lee, Yong Kiat. Retrieved from Royal Australasian College of Physicians website: https://www.racp.edu.au/page/library/college-roll/college-roll-detail&id=1240; Chew, C. H. (2013, May). Professor Lee Yong Kiat (8 October 1928– 22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 263–264 (263). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p263.pdf
3. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (261). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf; Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore. Singapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS)
4. Chew, C. H. (n.d.). College roll: Lee, Yong Kiat. Retrieved from Royal Australasian College of Physicians website: https://www.racp.edu.au/page/library/college-roll/college-roll-detail&id=1240; Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (261). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf
5. Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore. Singapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, pp. 74, 522. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS)
6. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (261). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf
7. Changi General Hospital (2000). Rising to the challenge: A story of commitment, determination and building on a vision, 1959–1999. Singapore: Changi General Hospital, pp. 18–21, 55. (Call no.: SING 362.11095957 RIS); Changi General Hospital. (2014). About us: Milestones. Retrieved from Changi General Hospital website: http://www.cgh.com.sg/AboutUs/Pages/milestones.aspx; Changi General Hospital. (2014). About us: History. Retrieved from Changi General Hospital website: http://www.cgh.com.sg/IMS/About%20Us/Pages/history.aspx; ABCs of affordable healthcare. (2003, March 14). Today, p. 79. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Meadows heads honours list for tourism growth. (1969, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1; Lee, P., Ngoo, I., & Bala, K. (1981, May 13). Singapore mourns. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (262). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf; Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore. Singapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS); Officials of ads committee. (1983, October 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Changi General Hospital (2000). Rising to the challenge: A story of commitment, determination and building on a vision, 1959–1999. Singapore: Changi General Hospital, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 362.11095957 RIS); Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (261). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf
11. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (262). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf
12. Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in SingaporeSingapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS)
13. Lee, Y. K. (1978). The medical history of early Singapore. Tokyo: Southeast Asian Medical Information Center. (Call no.: RSING 610.95957 LEE)
14. Shih, K. C. (1979, September 29). Discovering the ‘roots’ of our medical history. The Straits Times, p. 1; Lee, Y. K. (1979, November 24). Early history of Singapore’s General Hospital. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262 (262). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf; Fock, K. M. (2004). Physician, teacher and medical historian. SMA News, 36(6), 9–10 (10). Retrieved from Singapore Medical Association website: http://www.sma.org.sg/UploadedImg/files/Citations/dinner2.pdf
16. Chew, C. H. (2013, May). Professor Lee Yong Kiat (8 October 1928– 22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 263–264 (264). Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p263.pdf
17. Chew, C. H. (n.d.). College roll: Lee, Yong Kiat. Retrieved from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians website: https://www.racp.edu.au/page/library/college-roll/college-roll-detail&id=1240
18. Fock, K. M. (2013, May). Prof Lee Yong Kiat – Physician, teacher, administrator, medical historian and wise man (8 October 1928–22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 261–262. Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p261.pdf; Chew, C. H. (n.d.). College roll: Lee, Yong Kiat. Retrieved from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians website: https://www.racp.edu.au/page/library/college-roll/college-roll-detail&id=1240; Chew, C. H. (2013, May). Professor Lee Yong Kiat (8 October 1928– 22 April 2013). Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 42(5), 263–264. Retrieved from Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/42VolNo5May2013/V42N5p263.pdf; Tan, K. H., & Tay, E. H. (Eds.). (2003). The history of obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore. Singapore: Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore & National Heritage Board, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 618.095957 HIS); Changi General Hospital (2000). Rising to the challenge: A story of commitment, determination and building on a vision, 1959–1999. Singapore: Changi General Hospital, pp. 55–56. (Call no.: RSING 362.11095957 RIS)
19. Changi General Hospital. (1999). Annual report 1999: A time to build up and a time to break down. Retrieved from Changi General Hospital website: http://www.cgh.com.sg/AboutUs/Documents/annual_report99/03_buildup/index.htm
20. Fock, K. M. (2004). Physician, teacher and medical historian. SMA News, 36(6), 9–10 (9). Retrieved from Singapore Medical Association website: http://www.sma.org.sg/UploadedImg/files/Citations/dinner2.pdf
21. National Day Honours list in full. (1968, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 15; Meadows heads honours list for tourism growth. (1969, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 24 November 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Personalities