Saturday, February 13, 2016
Their names liveth forevermore
By Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera
There are many from my era in medical school who feel deeply grateful for the fine education they have received. Gratitude is one of the finest of human qualities. It is a divine gift respected in the Eastern cultures. Appreciation of ones’ teachers is a tradition as old as teaching itself. I must reiterate we were students in the golden age of medical education in Colombo with a plethora of some of the finest lecturers and clinicians we have ever seen in our island. While I can’t pretend to have matched the dizzying heights of their success, those long five years of interactions with our teachers made a significant lifelong impact on many of us. They were inspirational. It is my greatest pleasure and privilege to remember a few of them on this Blog.
Dr Don Jinadasa Attygalle
He was born in 1916 in the southern city of Galle. After his education at Royal College Colombo he entered the Colombo Medical College. He qualified LMS in 1941. DJA married Dr. Daphne Kanakaratne in 1951. She later became the Professor of Pathology. He worked in the Health Service in various parts of the country and sailed to England in 1951 where he remained until 1954. There he obtained the MRCP and returned to Ceylon to complete the MD examination.
He was tall, well groomed, impeccably dressed and ever courteous. From what I recall he was a dignified man of few words. Whenever he spoke to the patients, doctors or students he was calm and spoke respectfully. DJA was of a quiet and reserved disposition, never flustered, never upset. He had the ability to show and teach genuine compassion.
He took great care to teach us well. He corrected our mistakes but never lost his cool. DJA was a fine teacher of the best traditions of our era and taught us the basics well. He was a quiet retiring person who never looked for publicity. A few could claim to know him well.
DJA had a fine private practice where he saw patients at home and also at the many private hospitals. He never came across as a money grabbing doctor. He retired in 1972 but continued to see patients privately.
Mrs Attygalle passed away in 1989 and Dr DJ Attygalle in 1997. They had no children.
He was a devout Buddhist all his life and donated his house at 50, Castle Street to the YMBA.
I feel immensely proud to have been taught by such a great man whom I admire enormously. Despite all his achievements, those of us who were privileged to train under his guidance remember him mostly for his humanity.
Dr Ernest Victor Pieris
He was born in Badulla in 1926. His father was a doctor. After his education at Royal College Colombo he entered the Ceylon Medical College. There he qualified as a doctor with 1st Class Honours and distinctions in Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He proceeded to the UK and obtained his MRCP degree. On his return he obtained his MD. EVP was appointed Consultant Physician to the GHC in 1960.
EVP was a dedicated and meticulous physician. He was a kind, skillful and compassionate doctor and took great care of his patients. EVP was a popular physician in the private sector but he never neglected his duties to his poorer patients at the GHC and his numerous teaching commitments.
Although soft spoken he was no pushover. He had a tremendous sense of humour. He was well known for his acerbic and often amusing comments while on his teaching rounds and ward classes.
I did a 2 month appointment with him when I learnt much of my medicine. He had the skills to teach and also to make the students learn. EVP never suffered fools gladly. At his ward classes and appointments he saw to it that medical students learnt the bedside manners and the clinical methods. When he felt someone didn’t work hard enough he made sure they moved to the front and took an active part. I learnt much from him and feel immensely grateful. He gave some brilliant tutorials when we were in the final year. EVP maintained a healthy distance between himself and the students and made certain everyone knew his/her place all through his years of teaching. He was hard to please but appreciated good work.
He retired in 1972 and continued to see patients privately.
EVP was a good sportsman and he played Cricket and Rugby for Royal College. He captained the University Rugby Team.
He was married to a chest physician and had four daughters. EVP was a staunch Christian. Dr EV Pieris passed away in December 1991.
Dr. M. Oliver Robert Medonza
He was born in 1913 and had his education at St Benedict’s College Kotahena. He entered the Ceylon Medical College in 1934. Dr Medonza completed his medical degree with First Class honours and distinctions in Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In 1952 he obtained his MRCP and also the MD. Soon after he was appointed Consultant Physician to the GHC. In 1972 he was appointed President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. Dr Medonza retired in 1973.
He had a strong personality. I did a 2 month appointment with him as a medical student. My abiding memory of him is his wonderful bedside manner and his innate ability to speak to the patients in colloquial Sinhala and get to the bottom of the problem. MOR was a fine teacher and instilled in us the fine art of history taking and examination. He taught us to observe the patient and to elicit physical signs and interpret them accurately. He made it all look simple just like commonsense. He was always available to teach and to encourage, and never seemed harried or abrupt. It wasn’t often he was irritated by the students’ sheer ignorance but then it was all over very soon and he was back to his normal placid self. At the end of the 2 months he gave us a fine dinner at his house with plenty of good food and drinks. On that eventful evening he was one of us and enjoyed like the rest of us.
MOR was a popular doctor and was a household name being in great demand in the private sector. He never neglected his duties to his patients at the GHC and his commitment to teaching.
In his student days he was a fine cricketer and a tennis player. Later on in life he played billiards and contract bridge in the company of a wide circle of friends which he clearly enjoyed.
He became a devout Buddhist and learnt Pali to translate the Dhammapada.
Dr Medonza passed away in June 1991.
When I think of the surgeons that taught me the name that comes across in flashing neon lights, above everyone else, is Dr. PR Anthonis. He was not only a fine surgeon, excellent tutor, a fine raconteur, he was a phenomenon. PRA was a mentor to many. His ward classes were pure theatre and he knew the art of getting a message across to the students. Although calm and placid he never tolerated nonsense. He was firm when it was necessary. PRA was always courteous to his patients, his students and the nursing staff. His natural curiosity led him to make fine observations. He tried his best to pass on this superb skill to his students.
The myriad of anecdotes which he related in his own inimitable style, still ring in my ears. He often had good, sound and practical advice about everything with a short personal story to go with it. Although he enjoyed a lucrative private practice even the poor patients worshipped him for his kind and generous ways. He elicited tremendous admiration and affection in the people he met.
He was born in 1911. After a brilliant school career at St Peter’s College Bambalapitiya he entered the Medical College in 1930. There he won the Gold Medal in Surgery amongst many other awards and scholarships. He passed the FRCS examination in 1945. On his return to Ceylon in 1947 was appointed Consultant Surgeon to the GHC where he rose far and fast.
After an illustrious career in the Health Service Dr Anthonis retired in 1971. He worked in the private sector well into his 80’s.
He was a devout Buddhist and passed away at the age of 99. His kindness, generosity and good humour are fond memories for us all. Many will remember him for being such an eloquent speaker and fluent writer. He was such a presence during our years his voice must swirl in the ether in the wards and corridors of the General Hospital Colombo.