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Biographical entry Menon, Konthath Achutha (1923 - 2010)

MB BS Madras 1946; MS 1952; FRCS Edin 1957; FRCS 1958; Hon FACS 1971; Hon FRACS.

23 April 1923
Rangoon, Burma
24 June 2010
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
General surgeon


Datuk Konthath Achutha Menon was an eminent surgeon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was born on 23 April 1923 in Rangoon, Burma, the son of Kunhiraman Nair Menon, a civil servant, and Paimavathy Ammal Menon. He was educated at St Antony's English High School in Rangoon, where he was a merit scholarship winner and gained distinctions in the school leaving examination. He then joined Judson College, University of Rangoon, and, in 1942, was awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Madras. He managed to escape the Japanese, who had begun their invasion of Burma in late 1941, by driving an ambulance out of Rangoon, through territory held by the Karen peoples, to north Burma. From there he cycled through Assam to Calcutta and then caught a train to Madras. He was 19.

In Madras he joined the Stanley Medical College and passed his MB BS in 1946. He then worked for the Burma Oil Company. He returned to Madras in 1950 to study for his master's degree in surgery. As fate would have it, soon after he arrived he met 23-year-old Lila Menon, who had just passed her MB BS. After a whirlwind courtship they were married in August. He passed his MS degree in 1952.

By this time the Communists had taken over in Burma, now renamed Myanmar. Menon and his wife went to Malaysia, where he was posted as a clinical specialist surgeon in Muar. It was at the height of the Emergency in Malaysia, when Communists were attempting to take over, and the young couple had four difficult but exciting years as he was on call to a number of district hospitals.

In 1956 the Malaysian government awarded him a scholarship to go to London to take the FRCS. Six weeks after he landed in the UK, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh was holding examinations for the FRCS. He decided to take a shot at it, went to Edinburgh and passed. After this he went to Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals for 10 months, then passed the fellowship examination of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

In 1958 he returned to Malaysia, where he was one of just three Asian surgeons who had secured the FRCS. From 1958 to 1967 he was a consultant surgeon in the region of Perak, working in the city of Ipoh. He was then posted to Kuala Lumpur and worked in the General Hospital, a post he held until his retirement in 1978. He continued working in the private sector at the Pantai Medical Centre until 2006.

He was on the board of examiners for the English, Scottish and Australasian fellowship exams and regularly taught students from the University of Malaysia. He was a founding member of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia.

He was awarded honorary fellowships by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and four datukships were conferred upon him in recognition of his services, four federal and three state (a datuk is a traditional Malay honorific title).

Outside medicine, he was appointed to the board of directors of Bank Negara. He was a freemason and served as master of two lodges. He was vice president of the Geetha Ashram and lectured on the Bhagavad Gita for 30 years. Above all, he was a good man, with a deep and abiding faith. Whenever a patient thanked him, his answer was the same: 'God saved your life: my hands were only the instrument!'

He and his wife Lila had a perfect marriage for 59 years. He had a cardiac bypass in 1984, carried out by the renowned surgeon Victor Chang. Menon died on 24 June 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. He was 87. He had fractured a hip after a fall and, despite having a pin and plate put in, he died after being confined to bed for 11 weeks. He had a fulfilling life, professionally, personally and spiritually.

Lila Menon

Thye Royal College of Surgeons of England