Letters to the Editor
AN INTERVIEW WITH
“The formation of the SMA as separate entity from the Malaysian MA led to the founding of the SMJ in 1960. The local Alumni Association had been publishing the “Proceedings of the Alumni Association of Malaysia” and handed it over to the SMA, which then decided to rename it the Singapore Medical Journal.
Having a medical journal was only the beginning of a long journey. With Singapore being a young republic, its national medical journal likewise had its birth pangs. Many local doctors preferred to publish in overseas medical journals and this was also a problem with the previous Alumni Proceedings. SMJ was accepted by Index Medicus from the very first issue because they accepted it as a national journal automatically. A professional journal cannot ignore academic standards and to maintain standards, authors had to be persuaded to have their most important findings published locally. Surprisingly, this proved to be a very difficult task, because firstly, the Singapore Medical Journal was then a new journal with limited circulation and readership. Authors, especially local ones, quite naturally preferred to publish in journals of longer standing, with a wider circulation, or more critical readership. This view must be at least partially fallacious, as all "reputable" journals must begin sometime with the humble origin of local ones and the reputation that comes later would be the result of authors, especially local ones, publishing, their most important findings there. In other words, it is the case of a journal being built up by the work of the authors.
My primary education was partly in China and Singapore where I studied in Raffles Institution. After finishing secondary school, I won a scholarship to KE VII College until the Japanese Occupation interrupted my studies for 4 years. I resumed my studies after the war and graduated in 1949. There were 40 students in my class, including Tan Chee Khoon and Phay Seng Huat (Khoo Oon Teik, Shanmugaratram, Yahya Cohen were one year senior). In 1953, I was awarded the Queen's scholarship to London for just over one year - half the time in Maudsley (Psychiatry) and half the time in Queen's Square (neurology). I passed the MRCP(L) and worked in various neurology clinics in London.
I was the acting MD of SGH for nearly two years in the 1960’s and headed the newly formed Medical Unit III until I retired in 1971.
In my years as editor, the most memorable articles in the SMJ were those
that dealt with local issues, especially those that involved the entire
medical profession eg controversy between medical doctors and
pharmacists over the dispensing rights of drugs, and controversy between doctors and Straits Times over 'free medicine', which argued for free health service following the UK National Health Service. The outstanding scientific articles were on Pulmonary Eosinophilia by Danaraj and others. This was not a well known topic at that time and these articles made the rest of the world realise that worm infestation was an important cause.
I was also intrigued by the symptomatology of Koro - why should there be such a collection of symptoms? I studied the "Chinese Medicine" views, and published the hypothesis that "Koro is a cultural disease". During the Koro epidemic in Singapore, there was a lot of cooperation from government outpatient clinics and private practitioners. The medical doctors who came into the team also agreed to publish under ''the Koro study team" without any names!
I think SMJ is getting better and the quality of the articles is getting
(SMJ is thankful to A/Prof Lee Kok Onn for the interview.)