This blog is about new entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known) in June 1962. Please address all communications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.You may bookmark this page for easier access later.
Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
When I think of the emotion of anger many
events of my life and that of others flash across my mind. The one that sticks in
my head in the context of this Blog is an incident while we were doing Prof
Rajasuriya’s appointment. Need I remind you it was a time of great stress. It was a rigid, demanding and grueling two
months. His sarcasm and sardonic
comments were at times hurtful. It may
have been our youth that protected us from this onslaught. When he parked his silver Borgward Isabella in the patch of grass
next to his Ward 41, he raised the engine before switching it off and that
raised our blood pressure too. We were allocated patients of whom we were to
know everything from their ancestry to their ablutions.
It seemed a serene afternoon when the Prof
arrived. He was briefed of the days events by the registrar before the ward
round. About mid day a patient had gone into diabetic coma and remained
critically ill.The Prof went to this
patient first. A medical student was asked how his patient was. This took him by surprise not having seen the
patient after the morning round when he was fine.So he blurted out “he is sleeping Sir!”The Prof went into an incandescent rage. The
ferocity of his eyes could have reduced even the boldest to tears. The student got the ultimate punishment - to
repeat the appointment.The rest of the
ward round became a nightmare. His every
word had a razor sharp edge. I wish there was a gauge to record the wear and
tear on our coronaries that day.
Another incident during the Professorial
appointment comes to mind. The late ‘Claude ‘ Bernardhad a prize patient with Typhoid fever who
had a palpable spleen. It was a difficult spleen to feel but an important one
for the exam. Bernard had taken a full history and done his business. Everyday
for a whole weekscores of medical
students came to palpate this difficult painful spleen and the patient was at
the end of his tether.One sunny morning
when Bernard came to feel the spleen the patient went into an apoplectic rage.
He said everyone was prodding him and he is sick of this and wanted to get
discharged. He briskly walked up to the doctors office where the Prof was with
the Registrar. Bernard panicked and nearly wet his pants. He pleaded with the
patient to no avail. As a last resort Bernard slipped Rs 5 into the patient’s
palmwhich seemed to calm him down. This
certainly averted an ugly outcome. The end of the Professorial appointment was
like finishing a 26 mile Marathon. The relief was palpable. We celebrated with
a thosay feed at Saraswathy Lodge and a few drinks.
The two month professorial appointment had
its lighter moments too. Prof Rajasuriya had a tremendous sense of humour some
of it directed to his professional colleagues. I had a repertoire of his priceless
comments which I knew as a medical student but many have been lost in the mist
of time. He once said one doesn’t need a brain to practice Obs and Gynae – just
2 fingers.When one day the Prof arrived
earlier than usual only a few male medical students were there. He quipped “Where
have all the flowers gone?”. This was then a protest song against the Vietnam
war that was raging at the time.
Prof Rajasuriya dressed immaculately and
his gait was measured as was his speech. He was fearless and forthright and had
controversial views about nationalism and religion. But in his capacity as the
Professor of Medicine he was fair and unbiased. In those days we accepted the
idiosyncrasies of our teachers with good grace, assuming their intentions were
honourable.In the harsh environment of
education of that era we had very few rights, only a mass of rules. It was also
our salad days of youthful paranoia. Life as a medical student was not a bed of
roses and neither was it a bed of nails. I take the cue from the title of the 1996
song by that English Rock Band - Oasis – Don’t
look back in anger.
During the professorial appointment I learnt the all important
clinical signs, how to elicit them and how
to perform those simple blood and urine tests. Prof Rajasuriya’s clinical
skills and brilliant mind were an inspiration. His lectures were comprehensive
and complete. Above all, the hard work and diligence he taught us will remain
with us to the very end.
When Professor Rajasuriya passed away in 1975
we lost a dedicated teacher and a fine clinician. I personally would like to
thank him for the part he played in my medical education.