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In 1930s Singapore, 70 to 80 women in every 10,000 died during childbirth. Neonatal deaths were 700 in 10,000. Against this backdrop, Dr Benjamin Sheares, the father of modern obstetrics and gynaecology in Singapore, graduated from King Edward VII College of Medicine (NUS’ predecessor institution) in 1929. Born in 1907 into a humble Eurasian family, the odds were stacked against his achieving his childhood dream of being a doctor. But his passion for medicine coupled with sheer hard work took him to the pinnacle of his profession, and from there to the Presidency of Singapore. An outstanding surgeon, Dr Sheares pioneered the lower segment Caesarean section in Singapore, which is now the gold standard for deliveries requiring surgery. Over the 25 years he spent at KK Hospital, he pioneered country-wide childcare clinics to improve ante- and post-natal supervision and enabled better training for midwives. By the 1950s, the maternal death rate was down to 7 per 10,000 and neonatal deaths were 4 in 10,000. Dr Sheares, the first Singaporean to be appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) at the University of Malaya in 1950, taught almost every prominent obstetrician and gynaecologist in the country. His keen interest in clinical research led to safer O&G care. Singapore’s mothers and children are in safe hands today because of him.
The Benjamin Sheares Professorship will build on the expertise of SingHealth and Duke-NUS, set up initiatives within Singapore and overseas to build Duke-NUS’ and Singapore’s reputations as a leading biomedical hub. It will recognise academic leadership in medical teaching and form collaborations with other international centres of excellence. The Professorship is supported by gifts from Tote Board, SingHealth Foundation and the late Mdm Yeo Seh Geok (Mrs Benjamin Sheares).
here to read about the current awardee of this Distinguished Professorship.