Mahathir Mohamad was born in 1925 in Alor Star, Kedah. He entered the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore in 1947 and graduated in 1953. His years in the medical school equipped young Mahathir with the training necessary to assess and diagnose a problem, before dispensing the appropriate treatment. Throughout his later years in the political limelight, Dr Mahathir recognised the very important role the medical college had in laying the strong foundation for his successful career. He joined UMNO in 1945, already interested in politics at the tender age of 20; he was first elected into Parliament in 1964. The vigorous expression of his candid views did not go down well during the troubled days following the 13 May 1969 racial riots and he was expelled from UMNO, his writings were banned, and he was considered a racial extremist. Nevertheless, his intellectual and political influence could not be ignored for long; he returned to Parliament in 1974, and became the fourth, and longest serving, Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1981. Dr Mahathir has found fame as a Malay statesman, and an important Asian leader of the twentieth century with much written, locally and internationally, debating his policies. This article, using Dr Mahathir's own writings, starts with his description of his early life, proceeds to look at his medical career, then touches on his diagnosis of the problems plaguing the Malays, before concluding with his views on the need to stand up to the prejudices and pressures of the Western world. Throughout his life, Dr Mahathir behaved as the ever-diligent medical doctor, constantly studying the symptoms to diagnose the cause of the ills in his community and country, before proceeding to prescribe the correct treatment to restore good health. It is a measure of his integrity and intellectual capability that he did not seek to hide his failures, or cite unfinished work in an attempt to cling to political power.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.