Yvonne Marjorie Salmon (Singapore Doctor)
Yvonne Marjorie Salmon
|Born||10 December 1928|
|Education||Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)|
|Alma mater||Raffles Girls' Secondary School, University of Malaya|
Yvonne Marjorie Salmon (1928 - 2020) was a Singaporean obstetrician and gynaecologist who served at KK Hospital for over 40 years. One of Singapore’s pioneers in the medical field of obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), Yvonne Salmon was one of the two doctors to successfully separate Singapore’s first living Siamese twins in December 1961; the first surgery of its kind in the country at the time. From 1971 to 1975, Dr Yvonne Salmon also served as the chairman of the Chapter of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the Academy of Medicine in Singapore. In recognition of her work towards women’s healthcare and the health sciences, Yvonne Salmon was awarded the Gold Public Administration Medal by the Prime Minister’s Office in 1981, as well as the Special Women’s Award by the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) in 1997.
Before retiring in 1996, Yvonne Salmon had the distinction of being the longest-serving doctor at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (formerly Kandang Kerbau Hospital) as well as being the most senior obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) specialist in civil service.
Yvonne Salmon was born on 10 December 1928 in Singapore and was a Eurasian of French-English descent. She grew up as the elder of two sisters. Her father, S.R. Salmon is regarded as one of Singapore’s earliest pioneers in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), having founded the private maternity hospital, Salmon Maternity Home in 1950. He passed away in 1984 at 89 years old. Yvonne Salmon was the great-great-granddaughter of John Kinsey (J.K.) Salmon, a British East India Company officer that accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles from British Bencoolen in present-day Indonesia to Singapore.
Yvonne Salmon was a former student of Raffles Girls’ Secondary School. From 1950 to 1952, she then studied at the University of Malaya where she graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) in medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Yvonne Salmon was never married. She was known to be a devout Christian who attended Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church which was across from her residence in the Salmon Maternity Home, which she moved into after the hospital ceased operations in the 1980s. In a 2015 interview with The Straits Times, the pastor of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, Reverend Darryl Chan was quoted to have said the following:
“She is a neighbour to us. She used to join us for services and would receive communion here. She stopped attending a few years ago when her health deteriorated but a few of us still visit her sometimes.”
Yvonne Salmon passed away on 28 October 2020. At the time of writing (November 2020), her cause of death is yet to be reported. Professor Kelvin Tan, KK Hospital’s head of perinatal audit and epidemiology who was taught by Yvonne Salmon as a medical student, shared his fond memories of her, saying:
“KKH was Professor Salmon’s second home for 44 years since 1953. She was completely dedicated to her work and inspired generations of young doctors, many of whom took up O&G and became heads of units and departments. She was always cheerful and kind, and even after her retirement, she was very passionate about O&G and was proud of the O&G achievements in Singapore. She was strong in faith, and when I visited her after her retirement, she would always greet me with a bright smile and sparkle.”
Yvonne Pereira, the second vice-president of the Eurasian Association Singapore, said that Yvonne Salmon delivered her second child in 1982. In an interview with The Straits Times, she was quoted as having said the following:
“I remember her being friendly, kind, caring and most importantly, making me feel comfortable throughout my pregnancy. She has paved the way and is a role model for the many Eurasians practising medicine today.”
A well-respected practitioner in obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), Yvonne Salmon was recognised by her students and peers for her empathy and expertise in counselling her patients. Yvonne Lim, a reporter for The New Paper who was named after the doctor who delivered her in 1972, recalled her parents' encounter with Dr Salmon:
“My parents tried to see two senior doctors at Kandang Kerbau (KK) Hospital for an abortion. Both were on leave. Then they landed in Dr Salmon’s office. My mother recalled: 'She tried to persuade us not to abort. She said she would recommend another doctor if we wanted to abort. But if we carried the pregnancy through, she promised to deliver you herself.' Dr Salmon kept that vow.”
In a 1999 interview, when Yvonne Salmon was asked if she would have picked the same path of O&G in hindsight, she said the following:
“My answer is an emphatic “affirmative”... I derive great satisfaction from interacting with patients and helping them whenever I can. In fact, every new birth is a miracle and full of joy and promise. I never cease to wonder at the perfection of the human being. All this makes life worthwhile. I feel thrilled too, when given the privilege of naming the little baby and especially when the patients name the wee one after me.”
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (1953 - 1996)
After graduating from the University of Malaya in 1952, Yvonne Salmon joined Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) in 1953 where she began her career in O&G as a medical officer. Speaking in a 1999 interview, Yvonne Salmon recollected her work experience at KKH and stated that despite the lack of equipment and the heavy workload, the doctors, nurses and staff worked as "one large family". She also noted the following:
"Teaching of doctors, medical students, nurses, pupil midwives and limited research were also a part of our duties. As the C-class (heavily subsidised beds catering for the lower social classes) were always fully occupied, the young doctors, medical students, nurses, pupil midwives had more practical experience compared with the present time."
The following section presents some noteworthy highlights of Dr Yvonne Salmon's time at KK Hospital.
In September 1961, Singaporean doctors delivered living Siamese twins for the first time at KKH. In December 1961, Yvonne Salmon and fellow O&G doctor Chong Tuck Kwong were engaged to separate the twins, who were conjoined at the chest and abdomen. The surgery was carried out successfully, but one of the twins, Kate, passed away 15 hours later due to an infection. Yvonne Salmon was also a practising doctor during the "birth-quake" of 1966 when KKH entered the Guinness Book of Records for having 39,835 deliveries that year. When a flood that hit KKH in December 1969, Yvonne Salmon said that deliveries were carried out "by means of hurricane lamps and torches" due to the resulting power failure.
From 1975 to 1986, Yvonne Salmon served as the senior consultant and head of KKH’s O&G ‘B’ unit and was appointed as the deputy medical superintendent. After retiring from full-time practice in 1986, she continued to serve as an advisor and senior consultant to the ‘B’ unit until 1990. Yvonne Salmon then became a visiting consultant for the Department of Reproductive Medicine from 1990 to 1996. She fully retired from the medical profession at the age of 70.
Besides being a clinician, Yvonne Salmon was also an active medical researcher and a published author having written both journal essays and books. Along with S.L. Tan, a fellow doctor from KKH, Yvonne Salmon wrote Pregnancy and Childbirth that was launched in October 1986. The book aimed to educate the average Singaporean woman in the 1980s about pregnancies and the myths surrounding them. Speaking about the book to The Straits Times, Yvonne Salmon said:
"We want them to know that they can take control of the situation and help themselves, and that there is little to fear. You are only afraid of what you don't understand, and we've tried to help."
- Begum, Shabana. “Veteran gynaecologist who separated Siamese twins in 1961 in Singapore dies”. The Straits Times. November 3, 2020. Accessed on 17 November 2020.
- “OPERATION TO SEPARATE SIAMESE TWINS: ONE SURVIVES”. The Straits Times. December 19, 1961. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- "College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists". Academy of Medicine Singapore. Accessed on 19 November 2020.
- Khor, Christine. "Three CCC chiefs top the N-Day awards". New Nation. August 9, 1981. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- “In Loving Tribute: Dr Yvonne Marjorie Salmon (1926 – 2020)”. SingHealth. November 6, 2020. Accessed on 17 November 2020.
- "SALMON, Yvonne". Oral History Centre. January 6, 1999. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from National Archives Singapore.
- Zaccheus, Melody. “Shuttered maternity home 'last of its kind'”. The Straits Times. January 25, 2015. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from AsiaOne.
- Wee, Lea. "No flood or birthquake could faze this Salmon". The Straits Times. July 26, 1996. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- "S'PORE'S NEWEST MATERNITY HOME". Malaya Tribune. March 27, 1950. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- "141 Deaths". The Straits Times. January 8, 1984. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- "MERITORIOUS SERVICE.". Malaya Tribune. April 6, 1921. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- "Untitled". The Straits Times. October 23, 1928. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- “Portrait of Dr. Yvonne Salmon, Head of Unit B at Kandang Kerbau Hospital”. NLB eResources. n.d. Accessed on 18 November 2020.
- “80 Medical Students Pass Medical Exam”. Malaya Tribune. June 28, 1950. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- “26 Become Doctors”. The Singapore Free Press. July 3, 1952. Accessed on 17 November, 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Begum, Shabana. “Tributes pour in after death of veteran gynae Yvonne Salmon”. The Straits Times. November 4, 2020. Accessed on 17 November 2020.
- Lim, Yvonne. “She persuaded mum not to abort me”. The New Paper. September 7, 1996. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- “SALMON, Yvonne”. Oral History Centre. January 6, 1999. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from National Archives Singapore.
- “Siamese twins born alive in S'pore”. The Singapore Free Press. September 14, 1961. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Li, Xueying. “Separated in 1961: S'pore's own Siamese Twins”. The Straits Times. June 8, 2003. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
- Perera, Audrey. “Delivering the facts”. The Straits Times. October 11, 1986. Accessed on 17 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.