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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dr. C.S. Ratnatunga

Close on the heels of Channa Ratnatunga's "My Story", we have a tribute to his uncle Dr. C.S. Ratnatunga sent in by ND. It is most timely and I am sure, viewers will find it interesting.




Dr C S Ratnatunge - Remembered by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

We are eminently fortunate to have been medical students during the golden era of medical education in Sri Lanka.

Dr C S Ratnatunge was the Superintendent of the Anti-Venereal Disease Campaign and Clinical Specialist in Charge of the VD Clinic. The Clinic was in a back street close to the GHC and remained a non-descript building without a name board. All those who entered and left the building (except the doctors) did so like frightened deer at Yala.  We all had  a 2 week appointment with CSR during which he taught all we needed to know and more. It was one of the best organized and comprehensive clinical teaching courses I have attended. What struck me most of his teaching was his ability to combine scientific detachment with sympathetic understanding of the mental and physical trauma of his patients. As a doctor he was meticulous and a superb clinician.

In 1964 whilst working in the VD Clinic CSR published the History of  Venereal Disease Control in Ceylon with Eunice D.C Pereira. This seminal work on the subject published in the British Journal of Venereal Disease brought him worldwide acclaim.

He proceeded to the UK in the early 1950’s where he obtained his MRCP(Edin) and qualified further in venereal diseases in London. On his return he took charge of the VD Clinic where he worked until 1966 when he retired to proceed to the UK. CSR was appointed Consultant in Genito-Urinary medicine at the Royal free Hospital in London where his expertise was greatly appreciated.  During his tenure he published many scientific papers that were published in the BMJ, Lancet and in the British Journal of Venereal Diseases. CSR also worked as a Consultant to the WHO. He retired in 1982 and the Royal Free hospital held a Symposium on Sexual Health in his honour.

As a Consultant at the Royal Free Hospital he was a visiting physician to the Prince of Wales Hospital in North London where I worked in 1975. Once I introduced myself  in a dark corridor in the bowels of that hospital. Since  then whenever we met he gave me friendly and helpful advice about my career. Even after I became a consultant although he was retired he continued to do several Locums in my hospital. We often met up at lunch in the hospital canteen where we discussed all topics from medicine to politics and mutual friends and acquaintances. He was a kind man generous in his praise for others and a gentleman in every sense of the word.

We thank him for his contribution to medical education and his tireless work in Sexual Health.


May he find Eternal Peace

13 comments:

  1. The first comment is from the blog administrator!

    My first appointment as a Preliminary Grade MO in June 1967 was to the Central VD Clinic. Batch colleagues Desmond Gunatilake and Virginia Swan too received the same appointment. But by that time, Dr. Ratnatunga had retired and Dr. W.L. Fernando had replaced him. Dr. WLF by the way, was the father of Bandula Warnapura, Sri Lanka's former Test captain.

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  2. Dear Nihal, I too was not lucky enough to have had my training under him but thanks for highlighting his contribution to this important field and that he was so honoured for his contribution to STD in the UK. You have to be truly proud to have been related to him.
    Zita

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    1. Zita
      He was not my relative. CSR was Chester Ratnatunge's uncle.
      Thanks for your comment

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  3. I have met him socially in England. A charming man of the old school type with impeccable manners and behaviour so typical of a generation of Sri Lankans who grew up "Westernised" as they call it but to me a better term would be thoroughly civilised. I am all for Internationalism!

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  4. Mahen
    Yours is a wonderful description of CSR. His photo brings him back to life. CSR was friendly but reserved and kept his distance. I know he helped many Sri Lankan doctors to find their feet in England.

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  5. I remember being taught by CSR.He was an excellent teacher. Another person who taught us in that clinic was Lester Jayawardene's wife. I cannot remember her first name.
    Sanath

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  6. Prof. Leicester Jayawardene's wife was Dr. Indrani. At the time I worked in the VD Clinic, she was the Head of the Women's section. Virginia worked directly under her. The other lady was Virginia's aunt Dr. Mrs Dr Erin Christoffelsz. When I was looking high and low to find a guarantor for my car loan, it was she who came to my rescue.

    While Dr. W.L. Fernando served as the Superintendent of the VD Campaign, on the clinical side, the Senior Medical Officer in Charge of the male section was soft-spoken Dr. Navaratnam. It was at that time that Dr. R. Mahendran returned to the country having obtained his post graduate qualifications in venereology and a gleaming brand new Morris Oxford car!

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  7. I saw Hutchinson's teeth and Moon's molars for the first time as a medical student in that clinic. Although I have seen some Hutchinson's teeth since then , I have yet to see the latter again.
    Sanath

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  8. CSR showed us all the venereal diseases prevalent in SL and most of their complications. I recall seeing patients with Chancroid caused by haemophilus ducreyi which I am reliably informed is now totally eradicated. GC to all stages of syphilis were demonstrated. Speaking with the Specialist in Sexual health in my hospital I was told CSR is considered one of the pioneers of modern Sexual Health programmes. I feel proud to have been taught by a great man and a gentleman.

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  10. Nihal, Thank you for this appreciation. You guys have good memory recall! I do remember that my rotation at the "VD Clinic," as it was then called, was very instructive and that I did see chancroids and other very important clinical signs. But, I don't remember my instructors, shame on me!
    I think we were very lucky to have had the clinical experience available in those days, and I am not sure if it is the same for present day Sri Lankan medical students. I know that medical students in the western world definitely do not have exposure to the same type of clinical experiences. When Tobias (my German "relative" whom some of you met) was doing an elective rotation at LRH, he was a third year medical student in Germany, but had never palpated an enlarged spleen. He was so excited when he was able to do that at LRH!

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  11. Srianee
    It is great to hear from you and thank you for the comment. I am sure you can recall some of the things that others can't.

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  12. Srianee
    It is great to hear from you and thank you for the comment. I am sure you can recall some of the things that others can't.

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