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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CoMSAA Welcome Letter from Prof. Sheriffdeen

President’s Message

As Founder President of CoMSAA it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to participate in the activities of the association.

It has taken 141 years since its founding, for some members to take the initiative to conceptualize and eventually form this Association. The Latin noun alumnus means "foster son, pupil" and is derived from the verb alere "to nourish".  The medical school has indeed nourished us to what we are today, just as much as a parent would nourish the child with all the ingredients required to help develop a child into a healthy, responsible and ethical adult. The Alumni Association gives an opportunity for the alumnus to rejoin his/her medical school, revive memories and friendships and to contribute to its development and success.

Memories are rich indeed. Who of the Alumni of my vintage would forget our days in Medical School? The “block” with its pervading smell of formalin, fresh gleaming young faces of the new batch of students and the human bodies laid out for dissection, stark reminders of  life and death to come.

 We cannot forget the Department of Anatomy with Professors P.K.Chanmugam, Waas and Lester Jayawardene, the last feared by all students and yet a genial and kind man. That lovable duo in Physiology, Profesors A.C.E.Koch and K.N.Seneviratne with their legendary “Koch and Bull” stories which always drew rounds of laughter at the Block concerts! We remember Professor Baptist with his shock of white hair and Professor Hoole who tried hard to unravel the mysteries of Biochemistry to our unreceptive minds.

Who could forget Professor Chapman, white coat worn back to front talk of passage pronounced “passarge”, or Professor “Path” Cooray, the lovable Daphne Attygalle, or Professor “Mosquito” Sivalingam. Fresh in our minds are also personalities from the Department of Public Health, Professor O.E.R.

Abhayaratne, affectionately called “Pachaya” extolling the virtues of zinc sheet (takaran) roofing to toilets. As Dean, many were the anecdotes spun round him which he apparently loved to hear of! The genial Professor Earle de Fonseka who tried hard to teach us statistics, but succeeded better in conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra! The apparently stern Professor H.V.J. Fernando in Forensic Medicine and Professor Bibile in Pharmacology later replaced by Professor S.R.Kottegoda, photographer, wit and educationist who did so much for the medical school as Dean, all teachers who toiled to make us what we are. Clinical Pharmacology was later made so simple by the affable Professor N.D.W.Lionel.

Crossing the “road” to the General Hospital, oh, the expectations and hopes we carried. The extended Faculty had famous names: Drs Anthonis, Austin, Misso, S.Goonewardene and Jayasekera in Surgery, Thanbalasunderam, Medonza, Handy, Hilary Gunawardene and Ernie Pieris in Medicine, A.M.Mendis, D.A.Goonetilleke, Prins Rajaratnam, Henry Nanayakkara, Siva Sinnatamby and Panchalingam in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Grace Barr Kumarakulasingham, Stella de Silva, A.F.S.Perera, Stanley Silva and Mirando in Paediatric Medicine.
To us students however, the giants of this era were the Professors of the Clinical Departments viz Professors Milroy Paul and C.P. de Fonseka in Surgery, P. K.Rajasuriya and R.P.Jayawardene in Medicine, D.A.Ranasinghe and Visvanathan in Ob Gyn and Silva for Pediatric Medicine.
In addition to this list, the “army” of lecturers, tutors and Registrars come to mind and will no doubt be discussed in our correspondence in the years to come. Anecdotes, interactions, lifetime lessons learnt will adorn the pages of our website and newsletter all of which I look forward to with excitement.
The non academic staff: Messrs Muniyandi in Anatomy, P. Perera in Physiology (affectionately better known by his nickname!), Amarasekera, the  blood sucker and Sodali in Medicine, Dias in Surgery have helped so many of us in so many ways that they will remain in one way or another in our memories.
We cannot forget our own peers around whom so many legends and anecdotes revolve. Some are not with us but fond memories remain. The names of Drs. Jegasothy, Hubert Aloysius come readily to my mind.
However, as the years roll by the names and personalities change and younger alumni will no doubt remember teachers and colleagues of later years with the same affection and nostalgia that we have for ours.
We will remember with nostalgia those who are no more with us but who enriched our lives during the times we knew them.
In every batch year in year out, there would be the outstanding student destined to greatness and the average student, struggling for success. There would be failures and the tears. Eventually, we have all overcome the trials, the hurdles and succeeded in becoming doctors and a distinguished alumnus of the school.
The medical school in turn is proud of your achievements both in medicine and in life. Wherever you are, you have become responsible and respected citizens. Some are in the threshold of their careers, others pursuing postgraduate studies, others in senior positions in their chosen fields and others retired. Some are single, others contemplating marriage, still others parents or even grand or great grand parents! You have achieved a lot especially in the eyes of your loved ones and in the final reckoning this is what counts. A friend of mine gave me a quotation recently, which I treasure and must share with you: “it is better to be good than great!” It is this good that we want to share with other alumni of the Colombo Medical School Alumni Association, with the vast army of over 6000 good doctors that the Colombo Medical School has produced.
It gives you an opportunity to share, meet, enjoy, talk and discuss. It also gives you an opportunity to help the School and to give back to its students the chances that we had. Our teachers worked hard to help us to graduate. They loved us. Apart from time and trouble they took in the teaching and training, one example is the releasing of results of examinations within a week of its completion. Professor D.A.Ranasinghe’s widow revealed to me that the Professor would occupy a room at the Mount Lavinia Hotel for three days at his own expense to correct answer scripts undisturbed! We in the Department of Surgery would meet in Professor Navaratne’s house at 6 pm and continue up to 3 am for a few days until final assessments are done. Nobody refused to do this, no request for extra payment or overtime was made or even thought of. It was considered a sacred duty. Little wonder then that this Medical School was at one time classed as one of the top 50 in Asia.
Times however have changed. The annual intake has increased from 125 in my year to over 200. The number of students in the faculty at a given time has to almost 1000. There is little room for expansion. Those who visit the Medical School will see that there is an area bordering Maradana Road cleared for new buildings. Library space is at a premium. These are some thoughts that the Alumnus could reflect upon. We must also help. The cost of living for medical students has escalated; some even find it hard to continue with the course. They need our assistance.
However, we need to deal with first things first. We are in the process of strengthening our membership and if you could contact your colleagues/ class members and introduce them to us or to our email address, we would be ever so grateful.
The General Committee has been busy with designing a suitable logo, designing and establishing a website, creating an online letter and finding a little office space in the already overcrowded Medical Faculty premises. A corporate plan of activities for the future is being drawn up, with an events calendar for the year.
There are exciting times and events to look forward to. If you have any suggestions we would welcome them too.
I take this opportunity to send you our best wishes.
Emeritus Professor of Surgery
Founder President, CoMSAA

1 comment:

  1. Dear Professor Sheriffdeen,
    What a fine account and comprehensive index of our teachers, bibliography of subjects and interesting quips of our memorable years of training! You have jogged my fast receding memory. You were our senior and even then we knew you were bound for great things although we could talk to you as a friend.
    Zita (Perera) Subsinghe