History of the Department

The Department of Pathology had its early beginnings with its headquarters at the then General Hospital in Singapore. It was for many years the only laboratory serving the hospitals and medical practitioners in Singapore. Its work then included routine clinical pathology, much of which in the early days consisted mainly of blood films for malarial parasites and routine examinations of faeces and urine. Routine bacteriology, vaccine preparations and serology were also done.

In 1905, when the medical school was established, Dr G A Finlayson was the first Government Pathologist appointed to head the department. At that time, the Chair of Pathology had not been established, and the Government Pathologist undertook and was in charge of all teaching of medical students, as well as medical laboratory technicians. Dr Finlayson's tenure ended in 1926.

Dr J C Tull was the next Government Pathologist, appointed in 1926. He was also the honorary physician to the Governor of Singapore. He concurrently held the Chair in Pathology in the then King Edward VII College of Medicine, till his retirement in 1936. He was succeeded in the same year by Professor J A Cowan, who held the position for a brief period till 1937.The next incumbent to the Chair was Professor H 0 Hopkins, who held the position from 1937 to 1941.

The Second World War saw the Japanese occupation of Singa¬pore from 1941 to 1945. The University of Malaya was established in Singapore in 1949, whereupon the then King Edward VII College of Medicine became the Faculty of Medicine of the University. From 1941 to 1955, the Chair of Pathology was left vacant. Teaching during the ten years after the war, from 1945 to 1955, was undertaken mainly by Dr C Subrahmanyam (who was Government Pathologist from 1947 to 1954) and Dr T Balasingam, Senior Lecturer in Pathology of the University.Dr L S da Silva and Dr R A Cumming assisted in the teaching of Pathology during the first two post-war years.Dr da Silva subsequently became the Government Pathologist in 1954. He was succeeded by Dr K Shanmugaratnam in 1957.

The first incumbent to the Chair of Pathology in the University of Malaya was Professor R Kirk, who was appointed in 1955.That year saw the creation of an independent Department of Pathology of the University, headed by Professor Kirk. The University department was essentially a department of Anatomical Pathology (Histopathology), with emphasis on teaching and research. Professor Kirk vacated the Chair in 1960, and was succeeded in the same year by Professor K Shanmugaratnam who was till then the Government Pathologist.With Professor Shanmugaratnam's appointment to the Chair and through his initiation, the department took on routine service diagnostic functions in Anatomical Pathology (Histopathology) for the General Hospital and the Kandang Kerbau Hospital for Women, albeit still with emphasis on teaching and research as a University academic department.ln 1967, Professor Shanmugaratnam established, within the department, the Singapore Cancer Registry, which is an island wide registry for cancer. Professor Shanmugaratnam retired as head of the department in 1982, but remained as Professor in Pathology till 1986.

Professor Edward P C Tock assumed headship of the department in 1982, holding this position for fourteen years till 1996.During his headship tenure, the National University Hospital was commissioned for service as a public general and teaching hospital over the period 1985 to 1987. The department moved from the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital at Sepoy Lines to its present location at the National University Hospital, in 1985. Apart from its functions in teaching and research, the department was providing diagnostic service in Anatomical Pathology (Histopathology and Cytopatholgy) for the National University Hospital and the then Alexandra Hospital. Professor Tock retired as head of the department in 1996. He was succeeded by Professor Y S Lee who headed the department from 1996 to 2000. Assoc Prof S M Chong in turn was department head from 2000 to 2004. The current head since 2004, is Professor Teh Ming.


Compiled and written by Professor E P C Tock in December 1999

Updated July 2004 and May 2013