The Department of Surgery traces its beginnings to 1913, when Edward Whittle was appointed as Singapore’s first Lecturer in Surgery. Singapore, then a rapidly growing British colony, was in desperate need of qualified medical care. Our equally modest and fledging medical school, the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School, was itself recently established, having only been founded in 1905 with an initial cohort of 16 students.
For several decades, the Department played a vital role in medical education by establishing the training regimes and setting rigorous benchmarks for the training and education for doctors and surgeons. Professor Yeoh Ghim Seng was Head of the Department of Surgery in 1955, the first Asian to hold the position during British Colonial period. During his headship, Prof Yeoh shaped surgery in Singapore and paved the way for many talented Singaporean surgeons to follow. He brought with him the latest techniques from Cambridge to impart to his colleagues and benefited patients. One of Prof Yeoh’s important contributions was bringing the first half of the FRCS exam to Singapore and this sped up the development of surgery in Singapore.
With the rapid growth of Singapore and our region, the Department has actively positioned itself to create and seize new opportunities to grow and to contribute. The initiatives undertaken include a further intensified focus on research, including multiple-disciplinary and collaborative efforts with a wide array of partners; a tighter, more integrated approach between translational research and commercialisation of surgical and medical technology and innovations; more comprehensive administrative and infrastructural resources to support research activities; and most importantly, to continue training many excellent doctors for the nation. These bold thrusts will not only raise the Department’s level of teaching to new heights, but will engender a culture of excellence in research and innovation that will be globally impactful.
The Department of Surgery now encompasses 14 specialties: Breast Surgery, Colorectal Surgery, Endocrine Surgery, Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, Neurosurgery, Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Trauma Surgery, Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Urology, Paediatric Surgery, Cardiac Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Multi Organ Transplant Surgery.