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Tan Sri Dr. Salma Binti Ismail

Translation by Syed Zulfilda S.M. Noor

The First Successful Malay Woman in the Medical Field

Tan Sri Dr. Salma was born on 19 December 1918 in Alor Setar, Kedah. She received her early education at the Kampung Bahru Girl's Kedah. She had passed her Junior Cambridge in 1934 and Senior Cambridge in 1935. She was the only girl candidate and the first in Kedah who passed the Senior Cambridge with distinction. With the excellent result, she pursued her education at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore in 1936 with a scholarship by the State Government of Kedah. She was conferred a degree in Medicine in 1949.


  • Trainee Doctor at the General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur
  • Medical Officer in Kedah State (1950-1960)
  • Medical Officer in Selangor (1961-1969)
  • Owner of a private clinic in Jalan Hale, Kampung Bahru, Kuala Lumpur (1967)
  • Chairman, Salma-Bakar Sdn.Bhd
  • Director, Specialist Mediklinik Sdn.Bhd

Involvements in Social and Professional Organisations

  • President, Kedah General Hospital Club
  • Commissioner, Girl Guides of Kedah
  • Member, St. John Association of Kedah
  • Member, Higher Education Council
  • President, Private Doctors Association of Selangor (1976)
  • Member, Malaysian Medical Association
  • Member, Medical Defence Union
  • Member, College of General Practitioners
  • Member, Private Practitioners Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor
  • President, Selangor and Wilayah Gardening Society

To honour her contributions in the field of medicine, she was bestowed the Bintang Cemerlang Kedah (B.C.K.) by the State Government of Kedah in the year 1957, the Dato' Paduka Mahkota Kedah (D.P.M.K.) in 1996 and the Panglima Setia Mahkota (P.S.M.) in 1997 which carries the title Tan Sri. She made an historic achievement for being the first Malay woman who qualified as a doctor of medicine in the then Malaya. This achievement was regarded very highly at that time when Malay society was still wrapped in traditional customs that prevented young women from pursuing higher studies. Tan Sri Dr. Salma had etched her name in gold for her gender.

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