Emeritus Professor S. S. Ratnam
(1928 - 2001)
Emeritus Professor Shanmugharatnam , past President of the International Federation of
Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and former head of the
He was born in Sri Lanka on 4th July 1928 and graduated with M.B.B.S.
(Hons) from the
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
Ratnam pursued his postgraduate studies in the
Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (MRCOG), the FRCS Edinburgh (Obstetrics &
Gynaecology), FRCS Glasgow (General Surgery) and FRCS England (General
Department of Obstetrics
and Gynaecology in
until he stepped down in July
1972 he was made a Fellow of the
of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, FRCOG (UK), and later, in 1977, he was made Fellow
Ratnam received several other honorary degrees, conferred on him by the Colleges and
Societies of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in
ln 1988, the National University of Singapore appointed Professor Ratnam as its
Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a post he held concurrently with the Directorship of the
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
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
Refereed Journals, and
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
produce the birth of
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
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
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
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
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
of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,
P. C. Wong, FRCOG,
Associate Professor & Head,
of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,