Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Singh, Pritam (1920 - 2009)

FRCS 1948; BSc Lahore 1939; MB BS 1944.

9 January 1920
Patiala, India
30 May 2009
General surgeon


Pritam Singh was chief medical officer, director of health services and deputy secretary of health to the Punjab government in India. He was born in Patiala, India, on 9 January 1920. His father, Harcharan Singh Seraph, was an architect who had worked with Lutyens on the building of New Delhi. His mother was Gurdevi Kaur. After attending the celebrated Mohindra College, Patiala, he did his pre-clinical studies at the Forman Christian College, Lahore, where he was first in the college and third in the university. His clinical training was undertaken at King Edward Medical College, Lahore, where V R Mirajkar was the professor of surgery. He qualified with the Rahim Khan gold medal and became house surgeon to Mirajkar.

In 1945 he was awarded the Maharaja of Patiala scholarship for further studies in England. He was registrar to Basil Page, the pioneering urologist at the North Middlesex Hospital, for three years, during which time he attended courses at St Peter’s Hospital and other teaching hospitals in London and passed the FRCS in 1948.

In 1949 he went to the USA for two years, to the Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the Mayo Clinic.

In 1951 he was invited to become a surgical specialist at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda. He was a colleague of Dennis Burkitt and they shared a passion for photography. Together they made a particular study of lymphoma, especially of the jaw, which was common in children.

His reputation grew and in 1962 he was recommended by Sir Cecil Wakeley to Pandit Nehru as the right man to set up the new medical school at Chandigarh. There he organised and accomplished the transformation of a small cottage hospital into a modern teaching hospital, to which he attracted outstanding teachers from all over the world, including his old friend Burkitt. His achievement was recognised by his appointment as chief medical officer and later director of health services and deputy secretary of health to the Punjab government.

Pritam Singh had many interests. He was a keen artist and illustrated many of his own papers. He photographed the 16th century Kangra Valley paintings for Mohinder Singh Randhawa’s monograph, was a keen golfer, gardener and woodworker. He married Harjit in 1953. They had four children – Sukhwant Singh (a businessman), Kanwal Chopra (a schoolteacher), Gitanjali Johar (an importer of stone) and Anjali Sawhney (a teacher at Imperial College, London). He died on 30 May 2009.

Manmeet Singh

The Royal College of Surgeons of England