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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dr. Sunanda (Jimmy) Wickramasinghe - sent in by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale


Mahendra Gonsalkorale

17:49 (2 hours ago)
to me
Dear Lucky,

Just a correction about Jimmy. Thanks for publishing it but as I said in my email, it appeared in a Blog (and was not written by Jimmy).

Jimmy forwarded an article about him that appeared in a Blog called "Bolder". 

Bolder was launched in March 2015, with a mission to champion people casting aside age stereotypes and doing inspirational and interesting things as they grow older. The blog is run by friends and former colleagues Helen Cathcart and Dominique Afacan, a photographer and writer respectively.

If possible,may be you can add the bit about Bolder and say it was about Jimmy and not by Jimmy.



Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale had sent an article written on Jimmy Wickramasinghe. I acknowledged receipt of Speedy's e-mail thus:

Dear Speedy,

Thank you so much for sending the article on Jimmy and for attending to formalities like getting his consent for the publication. As you know, I don't publish anything without the publisher's consent. This is one way you can rope in others to participate. I have read through it and will be posted without any delay. My own discipline being Public Health, I tend to find articles like Jimmy's very interesting and easy to understand - a far cry from the highly technical articles from the medical field!

I wish to thank Jimmy as well. Hope you will be a regular visitor to our batch blog in future. I don't think Jimmy knew that I had contact with his father the late Dr. W.G. Wickramasinghe in the early seventies. In fact, he presented to me a book that he had written (his autobiography). How this contact began is a long story. But in a nutshell, when I was the MOH at Matara, I was going through the much thumbed Visitors Book and came across an entry that Dr. Wickramasinghe had made. He had visited the Matara MOH office for an inspection when he was on "circuit" as the Director of Health Services. As he had mentioned that he too had served as the MOH, Matara many years before my stint, and we had many topics of common interest, I just dropped a line (by snail mail) to which he replied. He had invited me to drop in at his Bullers Lane home on my next visit to Colombo. I did so and that's how he presented me a copy of his book which for years was occupying a place on the bookshelf of my small library at home. But one day, I mentioned to my wife's aunt Mrs. Leela Basnayake (wife of former Attorney General and Chief Justice Hema Basnayake) that her name was also mentioned in Dr. Wickramasinghe's book. She had not seen it and as such, requested me to lend it to her for a week or so. As often happens, I never got it back and unfortunately, she passed away shortly thereafter.

During the time I had contact with his father, Jimmy was out of the country. Ironically, I hardly had any contact with Jimmy during our medical student days. One reason was that we never worked in any group together because I am an Abey with an "A" and he is a Wick with a "W", two letters that are far apart in the English alphabet!



Dr.Wickremesinghe, 75
Dr. Wickremesinghe, known as ‘Jimmy Wickers’ to his patients, qualified in medicine in Sri Lanka, before continuing his training in the UK. He currently works as a GP at his practice in Stockwell, and up until 2006, also worked as a breast cancer surgeon and an endoscopist.
“I think medicine has always been in my blood; the majority of my family members are in the medical profession and my Dad was awarded an OBE and CMG by the Queen in the 50s for his contribution to eradicating malaria in Sri Lanka, where we grew up. I moved to the UK once I’d qualified. It wasn’t a culture shock; as a British colony I feel we were bought up to be more English than the English in a way! 
I met my wife at the Mayday hospital in Croydon in the mid 70s; she was a nurse there at the time and we’ve lived in Dulwich Village since 1980. The house is halfway between the hospital I worked at up to the age of 65 and the surgery where I still practice today. I’ve been at the NHS for 49 years so next year will be a bit of a landmark. I have seen families grow, relatives pass and new babies being born which creates a special bond as a doctor. As a cancer surgeon; I didn’t have that type of long-term bond with my patients, although from a purely technical and medical perspective that was perhaps when I felt most inspired by my work.
I have a brother who is a cardiologist in Australia and if I had my time again, I think I would live over there; the work balance is much better and it’s more conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Having said that, I do believe that life has a path and things tend to work out and settle as they should so I tend to try and avoid regrets when I can. It’s a waste of valuable energy. I was also invited to work over in America but I’m pleased I didn’t go. The medical system there is very fractured and it’s more of a commercial proposition. I work in quite a deprived area and I think it’s important that patients get the treatment required irrespective of their ability to pay. 
I know it sounds strange for a doctor but I’m a bit lazy when it comes to exercise and find it hard to stick to a regime. I like swimming but I don’t like the pools in England, the water is too cold – so I just do a bit of walking and sometimes play tennis. I am blessed that every day I come back to a home-cooked meal from my wife Kath. She eats quite healthily so as a result I do too. I probably drink a bit too much; a couple of glasses of wine every evening, and the occasional gin and tonic, but I gave up smoking about 15 years ago. I was a heavy smoker, but I only started in my 30s. I used to bring duty free cigarettes back from my travels for my friends then eventually I started myself! 
I haven’t really noticed ageism. We don’t go by chronological age in my profession; biological age is more important. There are 60 year olds who are quite ill, while there are 90 year olds who are very fit, playing golf and living the life of Riley. As far as my work goes, patients tend to associate age with experience – at least that’s my impression, so in practice it can even be a positive thing. One thing I do notice is loneliness. I have a lot of patients in their 80s or 90s living isolated in tower blocks, lots of them with no family or with children who can’t be bothered to visit. This is a growing problem in England. There is no community cohesion. In Asian culture, older people are more respected and integrated into everyday family life. I think we can learn from this in the Western world. 
The most important lesson I’ve learnt is to act with honesty, integrity and fairness with everyone you meet in life. And always be kind. My job has taught me that you never know what people are going through behind closed doors. I also think family is key. I always encourage big get-togethers at our home. Our two children, Nick and Katy, live in Battersea, so we are lucky to see them a lot – now we’re just waiting for some grandchildren! All our contemporaries have them and we are very envious.
My life motto? Health is wealth. 


  1. I think it is amazing that Jimmy would have served for 50 years in 2017! He certainly has a proud record and It will be great to see him with his wife Kath at the Reunion in 2017 which they are definitely attending.

  2. Although just a few miles away from me as the crow flies, Jimmy has been off my radar for half a century. Nevertheless it is lovely to get news of his successful career and life. I wish him well for the future.

  3. I have been reading this from time to time but didn't get round to commenting. It's great to read Jimmy's article, and thanks, Mahendra and Lucky for making it available to us. Jimmy is the model doctor, and our batch has produced many of these. I like his precepts and his ideal of care for those who really need help and the fact that he has stayed in a country where health care is for all and is not associated with whether you can afford it. Any young doctor can read this article and pick some valuable pearls. Zita

  4. I know that only 3 people commented but I am sure a lot more read it and enjoyed Jimmy's story, a story of great accomplishment as a Doctor, husband and father.

  5. Jimmy - not only a fabulous Doctor but you were my mother's hero as well as her friend and employer. Her words were "you were the best Doctor anyone could have.