Datin Seri Dr. Siti Hasmah


Honorary Degree (1994)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


One of the first Malay woman doctors in Malaysia and the first woman to be appointed a medical officer in government service for the State of Kedah, Datin Seri Dr. Siti Hasmah has set an example of personal and professional achievement for all women in her country. Since the appointment of her husband as prime minister in 1981, she has used her position as the wife of the prime minister to campaign tirelessly for women's health, family planning, drug abuse control, and adult literacy. Often a pioneer in her profession, Dr. Siti Hasmah was the first Malay woman to enroll for a medical course at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. In 1955 she graduated as a medical doctor from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, and then joined the government health service. She became, in 1965, the first woman to be appointed medical officer in the Maternal and Child Health Department, and in 1974 she was the first woman to be appointed as state health officer for maternal and child health.

Dr. Siti Hasmah is the author of several articles on family medicine and the socioeconomic factors associated with pregnancy and childbearing in Malaysia. She has served as president of the Malaysian Girl Guides Association, chairwoman of the Kedah Family Planning Association, president of the Malaysian Medical Association Foundation, president of the Association for the Rehabilitation of Handicapped Children, vice president of the Federation of Family Planning Associations of Malaysia, patron of the Malaysian Association of Maternal Health and Neonate, and patron of the Malaysian Pediatric Association.

As president of BAKTI (Welfare Club of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers), Dr. Siti Hasmah has been active in efforts to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse. In 1985, at the invitation of First Lady Nancy Reagan, she attended the First Lady's Conference on Drug Abuse in Washington, DC. She has also represented Malaysia at the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Quite apart from her present visible role as Malaysia's first lady, Dr. Siti Hasmah's professional career is a testament of her commitment to women's welfare and social rights. She is a role model for all women in Malaysia, especially for Islamic women who remain underrepresented in professional fields.

For her 23 years of public service, her volunteer work, and her leadership in the fields of rehabilitation, public health, literacy, and drug abuse control, Dr. Siti Hasmah has received many honors. His Majesty The Yang Di Pertuan Agong (Supreme Ruler of Malaysia), as well as Their Royal Highnesses the Sultan of Selangor and the Sultan of Kedah, have bestowed titles upon her. She was awarded the Kazue McLaren Award by the Asia Pacific Consortium for Public Health in 1988, and the National University of Malaysia conferred on her the Honorary Doctorate in Medical Science in 1991. In 1992, the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland, conferred on her the Honorary Doctorate in Public Health.

Dr. Siti Hasmah is also active in promoting the welfare of rural women and their families. In 1992, at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola of Belgium, she attended the First Ladies Summit for the Economic Advancement of Rural Women in Geneva. She was chosen as one of the six Core-Group Initiators of First Ladies representing the Asia-Pacific Region. This summit was initiated by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the patronage of Queen Fabiola. At the summit, Dr. Siti Hasmah stressed that "with proper education and training, rural women can help raise literate and productive children who, in turn, can be positive contributors to a nation's growth and prosperity."