The late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw the introduction of various surgical disciplines into our young, recently independent country which naturally first occurred in the General Hospital of our capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Well defined surgical disciplines such as Orthopaedics, Ophthalmology and ENT took root fairly rapidly and quickly established their respective departments in that period. The General Surgery Department while firmly established too, began to experience the introduction of various surgical subspecialties in the form of regular visiting surgeons from outside the country, particularly the United States. The then Senior Consultant Surgeon in KL General Hospital, Dr S M A Alhady, as the Chief of Surgery was largely instrumental for these visits. A well respected and experienced surgeon, his foresight and effort created a fertile milieu whereby young impressionable surgical trainees were given invaluable exposures from these regular visits. From 1962 until 1965, visiting surgeons from overseas coming from various subspecialties such as cardiothoracic surgery, vascular surgery, urology, neurosurgery and plastic surgery took turns, each visit comprising of two to three weeks operating sessions during which the surgical registrars and trainees were given the task of looking after these guests. Through these visits, the neurosurgery department was established in 1964.


Dr Bernard L Morgan, a plastic surgeon from Jacksonville, Florida came repeatedly for these visits and with Dr S M A Alhady, these two men recognised the immense potential and the need for the specialty to be developed permanently on a local basis. Dr Morgan went a step further and graciously accepted two local trainees in his residency training programme. This event marked the beginning of progression from total dependence on foreign expertise to an eventual state of self sufficiency for the country. Two local doctors identified for the programme were Dr V Sivaloganathan and Dr S Kandiah.


Dr V Sivaloganathan, then a lecturer in medical faculty of University of Malaya, was sent to the United States in August 1965. Upon completion of his training and qualification in 1969, he returned as the first plastic surgeon of the country. He went back to the university to continue his work under the umbrella of the surgical department and remained so until his resignation in 1973.


Dr S Kandiah came to GHKL as a surgical trainee in 1962 and as a young registrar was greatly involved in those visits by overseas surgeons. On completion of his final surgical fellowship exams, he joined the residency training programme in the United States in March 1966, that is, six months after Dr V Sivaloganathan. After he was board certified, he continued his stay in the United States to research in keloids for a year He returned to Malaysia in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 riots. His plans to set up plastic surgical services had to a take back seat temporarily in view of the political instability. Grudgingly working as a general surgeon initially in the early 1970s, he voiced his discontent to his previous Chief of Surgery, Dr S M A Alhady (who had then retired) and with the help of the Director General of Health, his first specialist posting in the government service was as a reconstructive surgeon in Sungai Buluh Leprosarium and secondarily as a plastic surgeon in KL General Hospital. While his work was mainly based in Sungai Buluh Hospital, he tried to make inroads in KL General Hospital. His effort was not unhindered as other existing specialties were not encouraging and he had to overcome many obstacles. Such a situation was not uncommon as when a newer specialty like plastic surgery was being developed, there was tendency for other established units to curtail it because of competition for limited resources in terms of finance, staffing and space.

From left to right:
Dr Bernard L Morgan, Dr S Kandiab and Dr S M A AIhad





Birth of Plastic Surgery Department and the early formative years (1970 - 1978) 
Expansion of Plastic Surgical Services (1979 - 2003)
Development of Plastic Surgical Services in Malaysia

Written by: Lim Yang Kwang