Monday, July 21, 2014

Malaysia has lost her first woman doctor

Tan Sri Dr Salma binte Ismail, the first Malay woman doctor, passed away at 6.15pm Sunday 20 July 2014 of old age. She was 95. 

She entered the King Edward College of Medicine (subsequently known as the University of Malaya and then University of Singapore) in 1936 but graduated only in 1947 as her studies were interrupted by the Japanese occupation of Singapore during the Second World War in 1942-1945.
Her determination to become a doctor superceded the norms of the times when it was unheard of for a single Malay girl to journey from her hometown AlorStar by boat to Singapore. Even the Second World War did not deter her from eventually finishing the course once the Japanese surrendered, taking 11 years in all to complete. Subsequently, she specialized in midwifery in Dublin in 1957 and returned to Alor Star where she was also the Royal Midwife to the late Sultanah of Kedah.
During her medical studies she met her future husband, Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Ibrahim (subsequently Director, Institute of Medical Research), also from Alor Star who graduated in 1951, by which time the medical school was known as University of Malaya. They returned to Alor Star and married in early 1950. Their first-born  (Tan Sri  Dr Ridzwan Bakar) was born in December of that year, to be followed by three other children subsequently.
When her husband was transferred to Kuala Lumpur to serve as the Medical Superintendant of Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, Dr Salma became one of the first Malay private practitioner in the country to open a private clinic in 1967 – Klinik Salma, which is existent till today. She retired from private practice at the ripe age of 82.
She was awarded the BCK (Bintang Cemerlang Kedah, 1957) and DPMK (Dato Paduka Mahkota Kedah, 1996) by the present Sultan of Kedah. In 1997, she was made a Tan Sri with the conferment of the Panglima Setia Mahkota by His Majesty the Yang Di Pertuan Agong.
Throughout  her career,she had been active in social work, among which were the Higher Education Advisory Council, Governing Board of Tunku Kurshiah College, President of Private Practitioners Association of KL and President of the Pan-Pacific Southeast Asia Womens Association.
As a woman and a doctor, she lives by the principle: “Have confidence in yourself, be honest, do not talk bad about others and give help to those who need it”.

Bru's notes: Our salam takziah to our dear friend Dr Ridzwan Bakar and family. May Allah bless her soul. Alfatehah.


  1. IT.Scheiss12:32 am

    Deepest condolences to her family.

    I recall my late mother used to mention the name "Dr. Salma" and "Dr. Abu Bakar". My mum was a doctor at KL General Hospital in the 1950s and early 60s, them transferred to the Pusat Tibi Negara (National Tuberculosis Centre) nearly on Jalan Pahang.

    May her soul rest in peace.

  2. Anonymous7:53 am

    Al-Fatihah to the good doctor for all goodness in the hereafter!

    HIPPOCRATIC OATH [modern version}
    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of over-treatment and therapeutic nihilism.
    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
    I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

    (Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today)