There have been so many outstanding women in Malaysian medicine – but, very few of their stories ever get told to the general public. Many of these women work quietly, pulling their weight alongside their male counterparts in a field that is both physically and mentally demanding.

These women are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, midwives, medical support technicians and more. Read on for their stories of how they’ve changed the lives of fellow Malaysians for the better.

1. Sybil Kathigasu (Nurse and Midwife)

Sybil Medan Daly was a trained nurse and midwife who worked with her husband Dr Adson Clement Kathigasu. When the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1948, she provided medical aid and information to the underground resistance, working from a wooden shophouse in Papan, Perak. She was captured and tortured by the Japanese, but survived the ordeal, albeit suffering serious injuries from the torture. TIME magazine referred to Sibyl as “Edith of Malaya”, in their 8 June 1948 issue.

Sibyl passed away in 1948 from the after effects of her torture (acute septicaemia due to a jaw fractured by the kick of a Japanese boot); but not before writing her memoirs “No Dram of Mercy”, which was first published in 1954. A period drama miniseries, based on the life of Sybil, titled “Apa Dosaku” was then released in 2010, with the titular role portrayed by former Miss Universe Malaysia 2003 and TV host, Elaine Daly, who happened to be Sybil’s grandniece.



2. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood

An obstetrician and gynaecologist by training with more than 25 years of experience in the medical field, Dr Jemilah Mahmood founded MERCY Malaysia, a humanitarian organisation which provided emergency healthcare in more than 15 countries. Photo credit: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
An obstetrician and gynaecologist by training with more than 25 years of experience in the medical field, Dr Jemilah Mahmood founded MERCY Malaysia, a humanitarian organisation which provided emergency healthcare in more than 15 countries. Photo credit: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Dr Jemilah is most known as the founder of Mercy Malaysia. But, more than that, she’s literally been to hell and back. In 2003 while on a medical mission to Iraq, Dr Jemilah was caught in a crossfire between two opposing sides, and found herself shot in the hip.

The incident also saw her witnessing the death of two other doctors and a pharmacist. Instead of breaking down, she stitched up her bullet wound and continued working through the day. Over the years, Dr Jemilah hasn’t shown signs of slowing down and is now the secretary-general for partnerships in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies(IFRC).

3. Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali

Tun Dr Siti Hasmah is naturally friendly and gracious. Photo credit: Malaysia Tatler
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah is naturally friendly and gracious. Photo credit: Malaysia Tatler

Tun Dr Siti Hasmah is most well known as the wife of Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. However, not many know that she is a medical doctor in her own right, and was the first woman appointed as Kedah’s State Maternal and Child Healthcare Officer, back in 1936.

She has authored many articles on child-bearing and health in Malaysia, all the while juggling her career with motherhood. Often seen as a kind maternal figure to many, her humble and self-effacing nature has endeared her to many Malaysians.

4. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari

With an illustrious career as a cardiologist spanning 40 years, Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahar has not shown any intention of retiring. Photo credit: The Star
With an illustrious career as a cardiologist spanning 40 years, Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahar has not shown any intention of retiring. Photo credit: The Star

Most well known as being the CEO and managing director of the National Heart Institute or IJN in 2009, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Robaayah is now a senior consultant cardiologist at IJN. With an illustrious career as a cardiologist spanning four decades, she has not shown any intention of retiring.

Dr Robaayah continues to be a mentor to younger cardiologists while continuing to treat patients suffering from a variety of heart ailments.

5. Dr Felicia Chang

She may be walking with a limp – but her commitment as a doctor and friend to patients undergoing palliative care sees no boundaries: Photo credit: SAYS/The Star
She may be walking with a limp – but her commitment as a doctor and friend to patients undergoing palliative care sees no boundaries: Photo credit: SAYS/The Star

Dr Felicia represents the thousands of everyday doctors who work without expecting any recognition. She’s a palliative care doctor and dedicates her time to making sure that cancer patients live out their days in as much comfort as possible.

Dr Felicia suffered poliomyelitis when she was one, and this left her with a limp – with one of her legs shorter and weaker than the other. In addition to that, she was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome (PPS) which means she’s prone to lethargy the longer she works. This however, has not slowed her down and she’s committed to putting her patients’ needs above her own.

Her dedication has won her numerous awards, including The Malaysian Women’s Weekly Great Women of Our Time award in 2015 for outstanding contributions to health, sports and wellness.

Women have been at the forefront of medicine for a very long time, and many more will step up to the challenge. We salute the brave women who are constantly breaking boundaries – and bringing healthcare to the masses in whatever way they possibly can. MIMS

Read More:
Women in science: Beyond the feminine chambers
Do doctors take women’s pain less seriously?
How cultural sensitivity could help battle social stigma of cancer in women

Sources:
http://says.com/my/news/extraordinary-malaysians-who-are-serving-a-greater-good-through-their-day-jobs
http://www.worldofbuzz.com/malaysian-doctor-stitched-gunshot-wound-save-patients/
http://www.thestar.com.my/travel/malaysia/2011/03/08/100-memorable-malaysian-women/
http://www.star2.com/people/2015/08/20/malaysias-foremost-female-cardiologist-finds-joy-in-the-sound-of-heartbeats/