Lives of the fellows

Yong Kiat Lee

b.8 October 1928 d.22 April 2013
MB BS Malaya(1954) MRCP(1958) MRCP Edin(1958) LLB Lond(1962) MD Singapore(1966) FRCP Edin(1969) FRCP(1972) FRACP

Yong Kiat Lee was a leading physician in Singapore. He was born in Singapore during the colonial era, the son of Choon Eng Lee, a headmaster, and his wife, Swee Joo Lim. He was a child under the Japanese occupation during the Second World War (between 1942 and 1945), and endured three years of hardship and tragedy. As the eldest son of the family, he bore the brunt of fending for his mother and siblings. Always a brilliant scholar, he gained the Seow Poh Leng medal at the Anglo-Chinese School for securing the top place in all subjects in the 1947 Cambridge examination, and was awarded a scholarship at the then King Edward VII College of Medicine. He qualified in 1954 with a distinction in medicine.

He was successively a house physician, house surgeon, medical registrar and senior medical registrar at Singapore General Hospital. In 1958 he obtained his membership of the London and Edinburgh Royal Colleges of Physicians.

In the early 1960s, Lee served as medical superintendent at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and later at Kandang Kerbau Hospital. He was the first medical doctor after the war to obtain a law degree from London University, in 1962. In 1966, while working at Kandang Kerbau Hospital, he obtained his MD with a thesis on ‘non-medical aspects of induced abortion in Singapore’.

As a consultant physician he served at Singapore General, Tan Tock Seng, Kandang Kerbau and Toa Payoh hospitals, and later in retirement at Changi General Hospital as an emeritus consultant. His patients ranged from the lowly poor to presidents, prime ministers and their parliamentary colleagues, but, regardless of rank, his first concern was with their meticulous care.

In the Oslerian tradition, learning from a long line of distinguished Singapore-based physicians, including Sir Gordon Ransome [Munk’s Roll, Vol. VII, p.485], ES Monteiro [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.375] and AL Gwee [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], Lee tutored and taught numerous generations of students and trainees. He became clinical professor of medicine at the University of Singapore.

Lee was also interested in the history of the development of medicine in Singapore. He wrote The medical history of early Singapore (Tokyo, Southeast Asian Medical Information Center, 1978), as well as numerous papers on the topic. In 2005 he wrote ‘The founding of the medical school in Singapore in 1905’ (Ann Acad Med Singapore 2005 Jul;34[6]:4C-13C), which commemorated the centenary of the school.

At the Academy of Medicine he was scribe (honorary secretary) and a councillor in the 1960s. He was elected to the fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and of Edinburgh, and of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

In 2004 Lee was given honorary membership of the Singapore Medical Association. In a citation entitled ‘Physician, teacher and medical historian’, given by Lee’s former chief assistant and successor, Kwong Meng Fock, he noted Lee was: ‘a popular teacher, and many generations of dental and medical students, as well as trainees, remember him vividly. He made his bedside tutorials fun, interesting and beneficial to the students and trainees in his own unique way’.

Lee was a family man and a most loving husband, father and grandfather, always doting on his children and later grandchildren. In 1954 he married Chye Neo Koh. They had two sons and a daughter. Lee was the chauffeur of the family and later, when able, to his five grandchildren!

During the many months of his final illness, Yong Kiat Lee received immense support and love, not just from the family and friends, but, in the Hippocratic tradition, his patients. He received the best care possible from the healthcare team at Changi General Hospital and from his supervising physicians, Kwong Meng Fock and Teo Eng Kiong. He was survived his wife, children and grandchildren.

CH Chew
KM Fock

(Volume XII, page web)

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