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Dato Dr Khong Kam Tak CBE JP
Dr Khong Kam Tak was born in Penang in 1884. He was the seventy-fourth generation descendant of the famed Confucius. He had his early schooling at Penang Free School before transfering to Anglo Chinese School (ACS), Ipoh in 1899. He was one of the two students of ACS to pass the Senior Cambridge Examination in 1902. He was placed second in the Federated Malay States Scholarships in 1903, receiving the prize of $120. He entered the Medical Faculty of Cambridge University in 1904. He graduated with MB, BChir (Cantab) and LRCP, MRCS (Lond), and completed his clinical training in Guy’s Hospital (London) before returning to Malaya in 1910.
First he practised medicine in Penang before he moved to Ipoh in 1912, becoming the first Asian with a Western medical degree in Perak. His new clinic was at Tatlock Street; two decades later, a new central market was built in the area, which helps explain why Tatlock Street is now called Hala Pasar Baru. Dr Khong then served the Kinta Sanitary Board (the precursor of Ipoh Municipal Council) before he joined the Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital as Medical Superintendent in 1922. Dr Khong held that post for over thirty years and was the driving force in obtaining funds and government approval for establishing the new Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital at its present site in Jalan Kampar in 1937. Besides that, he was a Charter Member of the Ipoh Rotary Club (founded in 1929), becoming its first Asian President from 1930-1931. He was appointed as a Federal Legislative Councillor in 1936 and also a Perak State Councillor several years later. Furthermore, he was one of the three Advisors to the Governor of the Straits Settlements and to the British High Commissioner in the Federal Advisory Council.
He was elected as the Justice of Peace (JP) in 1923 for his distinguished service to the people and government of the country. He received the Malayan Certificate of Honour (MCH) in 1932 and was conferred the title of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1935. His name was also included in the prestigious Debrettt’s Book of Peerages, as he was made the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1947. Dr Khong Kam Tak became the first non-Malay to be awarded the title of Dato in Perak, by the late Sultan Yusuff Izzudin Shah in 1956. He retired in 1957 and died in Singapore on 5 October 1973.
Ipoh Remembered shared the following with us:
The Khong family was equally important. Khong Kam Tak arrived from Penang as a boy in 1899 and enrolled at ACS, then being run by Simpson Wood. After leaving Malaya for Cambridge to obtain a medical degree, then starting his practice in Penang, Kam Tak returned to Ipoh in the 1910s, finding a house for himself near the bridge on Hugh Low Street and immediately throwing his energies into various good works.
Khong Kam Tak also created the Perak Chinese Recreation Club.