The Department of Medical Microbiology was formed in 1964, and its first head of department was Professor H.B. Maitland. Other lecturers in those initial years included Karthigesu and V. Krishnapillay (who both also served as heads), T.S. Soo-Hoo, S.K. Lam, V. How, B. Ong, and S. Puthucheary. Initially, the department’s role was mainly to teach undergraduate medical students, but the role gradually expanded to include research, diagnostic services for the hospital, and helping the Ministry of Health with investigations into infectious disease outbreaks. Following the Hong Kong flu pandemic, the department was designated a WHO National Influenza Centre in 1969, and continues to be involved in the global surveillance of influenza today.

In the 1970s, Professors Sandiford and then Wilson came from the United Kingdom to head the department and help develop it further. Subsequent heads of department were Professors K.H. Chai (1978-1981), S. Puthucheary (1981-1983), S. Arseculeratne (1984-1986), S.K. Lam (1987-2000), Hamimah Hassan (2000-2004), and the current head, Sazaly Abu Bakar.

 Prof Putucheary
Prof. Dr. S. Puthucheary
Prof. Dr. S.K. Lam
 Prof. Dr.  Hamimah

Key events during this time included the designation of the department as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Dengue (1982), and the discovery of Nipah virus (1999), for which the department was awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Technological Innovation in 2002. The department’s roles in diagnostics, teaching, and research have continued to grow, and have been enhanced by new technologies such as molecular techniques.

Dr. M.L. Thong, Professor S. D. Puthucheary (Head 1981-1983), Professor K. H. Chai (Head 1978-1981), and visiting Professor McVicar in the 1970s.