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First Malay woman doctor dies

The first Malay woman who qualified as a medical doctor at the then King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore has died of old age.

Dr Salma Ismail, 95, died at Pantai Hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Her eldest son, Dr Ridzwan Bakar, 64, said his mother died at 6.15pm.

“My mother’s determination to become a doctor superseded the norms of the time, especially for a single Malay girl to travel from her hometown in Alor Star by boat to study in Singapore. But she made it," Dr Ridzwan told The New Straits Times.

“She was the only female candidate and the first in Kedah who passed the Senior Cambridge with distinction.”

Dr Salma had created history in 1947​ by becoming the first Malay woman to qualify as a medical doctor at the college, which later became the medical faculty​ at the National University of Singapore.

She had won a Kedah state scholarship to study in Singapore in 1936, but the war interrupted her education from 1939 to 1945. 

Dr Salma Ismail attending her graduation in this The Straits Times report from Oct 23, 1948. 

A notice in The Straits Times on Dec 24, 1947.

She continued her studies after the war and returned to Peninsular Malaysia after her graduation.

She served as a medical officer in Kedah and Selangor in the 1950s and 1960s. She retired at age 82, reported Malaysian Digest.

In 1997, Dr Salma was conferred the award Panglima Setia Mahkota, which carries the title Tan Sri.

She is survived by two sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.

Sources: The New Straits Times​, The Straits Times

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