Koh Kim Yam was born in Muar, Johor, in 24 Jan 1915, fourth son of the merchant, Koh Peng Chiang who had property holdings in Singapore and Johor. He grew up on Balmoral Road and was schooled at St Joseph’s Institution, where he obtained his Senior Cambridge (equivalent to GCE O-levels) at the age of 15 and his Licentiate in Medicine from King Edward VII College just before the outbreak of war. While still a medical student, he met his future wife, Choo Ngai Mun, a midwifery student from Kuala Lumpur. He was in Singapore during the Japanese invasion, but refused to serve under the Japanese.
Dr Koh was posted to the psychiatric hospital in Tanjong Rambutan, Perak, taking Choo with him. They married in 1942 in Kuala Lumpur. His first two sons, Richard and Patrick were born in 1943 and 1944 respectively in Tanjong Rambutan. In December 1944 he was taken by the Japanese to care for Malayan coolies working on the Siam-Burmese railroad, where he remained until the Japanese surrender. Dr Koh continued to work in Siam under the Royal Army Medical Corps for some months after the Japanese surrendered, but returned to Singapore in 1946.
He was appointed to run the re-opened Tanjong Pagar Clinic on Nelson Road, where his third son, Francis was born. The Nelson Road clinic cared primarily for port workers and sailors, and “social health” (a euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases) was a large part of his practice there. The environment was very sooty because of smoke from the nearby port, and so in 1954, Dr Koh purchased a house in the newly build Sennett Estate, at 21 Butterfly Avenue for $46,000, which remained the family home the rest of his life.
In 1960, Dr Koh was appointed medical officer-in-charge of the Middle Road Hospital, in which post he remained until his retirement in 1970. After retirement, he continued to work as a temporary medical officer at Middle Road Hospital. He was an active golf member of Island Country Club. He died in his sleep in April 1976.
The Koh Kim Yam Private Papers Collection was donated by his family. It consists predominantly of 500 historical documents including private records, manuscripts, awards and medals and estate papers. The collection is categorized according to the following series.
This series contains the awards and medals he received in recognition of his service during the war of 1939-45.
This series contains letters, educational certificates and birth and death certificate.
This series contains records to 21 Butterfly Avenue, mortgage documents, shares, will and grant of probate.
Letter of Appointments
This series contains records of his letter of public service appointments, re-employment, and medical benefits entitlement card.
Middle Road Hospital
This series contains correspondences related to his appointments and testimonials from the senior medical officers for social hygiene and annual reports of Middle Road Hospital.
War Service and Damage Claims
This series contains correspondences with Malayan War Damage Claims Commission and war damage compensation and repatriation claims.
This series contains handwritten documents of Dr Koh’s salary, return of income statements, receipts related to vehicle repairs and purchase of items.