ln memoriam

 

Emeritus Professor S. S. Ratnam

 

Professor Shan S. Ratnam

          

   



 

(1928 - 2001)

 

Emeritus Professor Shanmugharatnam , past President of the International Federation of

Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and former head of the National University of

Singapore’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, passed away in Singapore on 6th August 2001.

He was born in Sri Lanka on 4th July 1928 and graduated with M.B.B.S.

 

 

(Hons) from the University of Ceylon, Colombo, Sri Lanka. He subsequently moved to

 

Singapore and has been responsible in bringing glory to Singapore in the world's arena

 

of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. During his lifetime he had achieved much and had been

 

heaped with many honours.

 

Professor S. Shan Ratnam was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics

 

and Gynaecology in 1963 of the former University of Singapore at the Kandang Kerbau

 

Hospital. Professor Ratnam pursued his postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom and

 

returned to Singapore in 1965, having obtained his membership of the Royal College of

 

Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (MRCOG), the FRCS Edinburgh (Obstetrics &

 

Gynaecology), FRCS Glasgow (General Surgery) and FRCS England (General

 

Surgery).

 

The National University of Singapore appointed him Professor and Head of the

 

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1970, a post he held for 25 years

 

until he stepped down in July 1995. ln 1972 he was made a Fellow of the Royal College

 

of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, FRCOG (UK), and later, in 1977, he was made Fellow

 

of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. During the period 1983 to 1993, Professor

 

Ratnam received several other honorary degrees, conferred on him by the Colleges and

 

Societies of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Australia, West Africa, USA, Japan,

 

Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

 

 

ln 1988, the National University of Singapore appointed Professor Ratnam as its

 

Director of the School of Postgraduate Medical Studies. As Head of the Department of

 

Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a post he held concurrently with the Directorship of the

 

Postgraduate School, Professor Ratnam had clear visions as to how his department

 

Ought to be managed and what goals it should achieve. He saw the urgent need to bring

 

scientist and clinician together in order to bring his department to the forefront in international

 

research. The blend of service, research, and training, it is worthwhile noting, was a

 

unique and outstanding feature of Professor Ratnam's department.

 

Professor Shan Ratnam was a well-known and well-liked figure not only locally, but

 

also regionally and internationally.

 

Locally he was President of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of

 

Singapore, Chairman of the Chapter of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the

 

Academy of Medicine and President of the Family Planning Association of Singapore.

 

Regionally, he served in an editorial capacity with several journals on the subject of

 

Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Perinatology. He held the position of Secretary­

 

General, Asia & Oceania Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and President of the

 

Federation of Asia & Oceania Perinatal Societies and the MASEAN Chapter of

 

Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

 

The World Health Organisation enlisted his services as Chairman of its Policy and

 

Coordinating Committee and Member of its Scientific Technical Advisory Group. The

 

other international positions he held include those of President, International Federation

 

of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the highest international honour in the

 

speciality; President, International Association of Supporters of FIGO (SOFIGO);

 

Representative (Asia & Oceania), International Association for MaternaI and Neonatal

 

Health (IAMANAH) and Director, Society for the Advancement of Contraception.

 

As an academic, he obtained his Doctorate in Medicine by thesis from the then

 

University of Singapore in 1970. He has published some 596 articles in International

 

Refereed Journals, and 396 in local and Regional Refereed Journals. He has written 138

 

chapters in books and attended 795 conferences in many of which he had been invited to

 

present seminal papers.

 

As a clinician he was beyond comparison. ln his early life as a gynaecologist, the plight

 

of sub-fertile women so touched him that he undertook pioneering work in this field. Having the

 

foresight to be at the forefront of reproductive biology, Professor Ratnam was quick to initiate a

 

test-tube baby program in the department in 1982 as soon as the first world's test-tube

 

baby was born in 1978. He subsequently led a team of renowned clinicians and

 

scientists to produce the birth of Asia's first in-vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in 1983,

 

followed by Asia's first GIFT baby in 1986. Asia's first frozen embryo baby in 1987,

 

the world's first microinjection baby in 1989 and the world's first babies born via

 

human-ampullary co-culture in 1991. The infrastructure of a sound and sophisticated

 

centre in Assisted Reproductive Technology, which he built, formed the foundation on

 

which scores of other scientists achieved their innovations and made their names

 

internationally.

 

The surgical procedures of gender reassignment or trans-sexualism are synonymous

 

both nationally and internationally with the name Ratnam. His published work in this

 

area with the late Professor Sheares prompted a male trans-sexual to seek his help for

 

reassignment surgery. He developed the surgical procedures and treatment thereafter

 

for the care of male to female and female to male patients. Today, this is an accepted mode of

treatment for such patients, and Professor Ratnam' s innovative techniques have entered the text

 

books of Human Reproduction.

 

Professor Ratnam has also received various National Honours. ln 1977, he received

 

the Singapore Public Administration Gold Medal. The following year the Singapore

 

National Trade Union Congress awarded him the "Friend of Labour" medal. ln 1985,

 

on the Singapore National Awards day, he was honoured with the Public Services Star.

 

ln 1988, he and his team on sub-fertility were given the National Science and Technology

 

award. This was followed in 1991 by the ASEAN award for contributions to Reproductive

 

Medicine.

 

His immense contributions to the National University of Singapore were recognized

 

when he was made Emeritus Professor in 1996 and with the Endowment of the S. Shan

 

Ratnam Professorship available annually to internationally reputed specialists in

 

Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2000. For Professor  Ratnam's contributions to Family

 

Medicine in Singapore, he was posthumously awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the

College of Family Physicians of Singapore on 26th August 2001.

 

He was kind and always had time for his staff and their problems. For those who

 

have had the opportunity to work with him, it has been a rare experience. Although

 

Professor Ratnam retired as Head of Department in July 1995, he continued to serve as

 

Professorial Fellow in the Department, being active untill the very end in spite of

indifferent health after suffering a mild stroke at the end of 1999. He passed away while

suffering from bronchopneumonia after a short illness on 6th August 2001. He is survived

by his own family, composed of the families of his son and daughter, and two siblings and their families.

 

Emeritus Professor Shan S. Ratnam will be remembered with admiration and love by

 

his relatives, friends, colleagues and patients alike.

 

R. N. V. Prasad, MD, DSc, FRCOG

Professor,

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore

 

P. C. Wong, FRCOG,

Associate Professor & Head,

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore

 

 

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