Google Thailand celebrates Siam’s first ever female doctor

Today marks the 122nd birthday of Thailand’s first-ever female doctor — and Google has dedicated a special doodle to celebrate her life and legacy with the kingdom.

Margaret Lin Xavier or Khun Ying Srivisanvaja — more commonly known as Dr. Lin — was a Thai physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology and the first Thai woman to practice modern medicine in the kingdom of Siam, officially becoming the kingdom’s first female doctor.

Born on 29 May 1898 in Bangkok, Siam, to a family of Portuguese descent, Lin was the daughter of Celestino Maria Xavier (Phraya Sri Phipat Kosa), a prominent diplomat during the reigns of King Rama V and VI, and Kim Kee. Upon her father’s posting as a Thai ambassador to Italy, Lin entered Clark’s Commercial College in London and later joined the London School of Medicine for Women and the Royal Free Hospital, obtaining an MBBS, MRCS, and LRCP.

Upon her father’s death in 1924 and at 26 years old, Lin returned to Thailand and became an obstetrician working for the Thai Red Cross Society at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and the medical facility in Bang Rak District under the Ministry of Public Health. 

Soon after, with authorization from the Thai Red Cross, she established her own private clinic, “Unakan,” along with her sister Chan Xavier. The latter was a drug specialist and became the clinic’s pharmacist.

Dr. Lin married Phraya Srivisaravaja on 15 August 1926, who later became the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand in 1932, bestowing her the title of “Khun Ying.”

Throughout her profession, Dr. Lin would dedicate her services and assistance to all social positions, not just in the aristocracy. She tended to numerous impoverished patients free of charge across the kingdom who weren’t able to afford healthcare, including sex workers. She opted to breastfeed her children herself while continuing to work, instead of hiring a wet nurse like the other women of her status during that time — another feat unprecedented and unheard of during that time in Siam.

Another highlight of Dr. Lin’s career was in 1932 when she delivered Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, who would later become Queen Sirikit, the queen consort of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX.

Dr. Lin passed away on 6 December of 1932 due to complications of influenza at just 34 years old.

As of December 2019, 45% of 61,302 doctors in Thailand are women, according to the Medical Council of Thailand — and this all started with a 26-year-old woman named Margaret Lin Xavier.

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