Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Await! A Nostalgic Virtual Tour of Familiar Surroundings

How many of you have visited the Colombo Medical Faculty since you left it for the last time in 1967? Well, I did. Or rather, I do from time to time. Please visit this blog for a nostalgic virtual tour of your old haunts - the Common Rooms, Old Anatomy Block, Physiology (and Biochemistry) Block, Francis Road, Pathology Block, the entrance to the main Administrative Block (where our beloved Dean used to stand often with his tuneless whistling), the quadrangle where a new building has now come up etc.

For starters, Carey College Junction, Bloemfontein Hostel on Norris Canal Road and the Women's Hostel at De Saram Place - temporary homes to some of you. I already have these pictures. But I will have to do a "photo shoot" for the others. Please see earlier posting for a picture of the main entrance to the General Hospital.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lost in a Dream

By Mahendra Gonsalkorala

The sky changes from cheerful blue to gloomy grey.
The scene lit up by a blinding flash.
The view brightens and oscillates.
A deafening clap of thunder.
A powerful rumble grows and recedes.
The heavens open,
the rain pours down in sheets.

The silence is broken
with the noise of pelting rain on leaves.
Dry leaves become wet,
wet leaves lost in puddles of water,
puddles of water become lakes.
The blowing wind howls mercilessly
pushing aside sheets of rain
casting helpless leaves in the air.

She was walking,
now she runs.
Her long hair dancing
as they fall on her graceful shoulders.
The rain wets her hair
curls now tamed to wet ribbons.
Water runs down her face
as she rushes through the rain.

Her head bobs and weaves
avoiding looming branches.
Her shapely legs move gracefully
as she runs through the forest.
Her dress become soaked
snugly encasing her form
tantalisingly revealing,
the voluptuous curves of her body.

She stops in her tracks
as a figure looms in front of her.
Tall and handsome,
wet and soaked like her.
She runs into his arms.
He holds her to his bosom,
a soothing embrace.
She feels safe.

With a gasp she wakes up.
He is still there in bed
all curled up beside her,
sleeping like a lamb.
She draws him close.
I haven't lost him,
with a relieved sigh
she is asleep again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review - From Hikkaduwa to the Carolinas

Memoirs of a Reluctant Expatriate 

“Memory is the treasure-house of the mind”. - Thomas Fuller
Someone famously but anonymously said this:

“The glory of summer is best appreciated, when one is shivering in winter’s cold.”

Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene’s Memoirs, seem to derive directly from an identical situation. The main title of his book is “From Hikkaduwa to the Carolinas”. He adds an elucidatory second title: “Memoirs of a Reluctant Expatriate.”

Ten thousand miles away from the land of his birth, memories from ‘good old Sri Lanka’, kept on flooding his soul. The present volume, represents an expanded version of those fond home-thoughts. His professional sojourn in the distant carolinas, provided him with the proper perspective to adore and esteem the allure and the appeal of the place he always calls home. Recollections gushed forth, from the depth of his being. There was no need to recourse to notes. What remained to be done, was to impose book-form, upon the contents.
Briefly, that is the process that ensured the genesis of this book.
Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

The pages are crowded with memories of persons and places. He narrates the evolution of certain places in the spirit and the style of a dedicated historian. One could feel a sense of affection coming through those descriptions.

The author hails from Hikkaduwa - a township in the South of Sri Lanka. It is quite a noteworthy “hail”, because Hikkaduwa is replete with a rich lore, centring upon great scholars, affluent families and many who achieved national stature.
Dr. Abeyagunawardene, traces the ramifications of his own family. He, quite modestly, considers himself a residual legatee of the vast achievements of those earlier stalwarts of Hikkaduwa, who shone at various levels of life.

Personally I cherish the author’s narration of the history of the area that is well-known as Manning Town, where, according to the author, he lived a good part of his childhood. Since I am currently resident at Manning Town flats, the author’s detailed descriptions of that area, with a touching sense of intimacy, fascinated me no end. The author’s in-depth recounting of the phases of evolution of Manning Town, is eloquent testimony to his impassioned attachment to his childhood haunts. The key to his close involvement with the life at Manning Town, is his memory of the house numbers, in many instances.

As you continue to progress through his memoirs, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by his phenomenal dexterity to recall the details of the places he had known, while growing up. Recounting his schooling phase, the author takes the reader to his days at Ananda College. His undiminishing loyalty to Ananda is enshrined in his resounding statement: “I found that greatness in a school does not depend on the locality. My Alma mater, would have flourished anywhere on earth as an outstanding seat of learning!”

We meet the author next, as an Assistant Science Teacher, at Talatuoya Central College. It is there he experienced the thrill of earning his first salary. As a dutiful son, he bought a twenty-four-Rupee silk saree for his mother and a fourteen Rupee Hentley Executive shirt for his father, using his first pay.

There were only the minor preliminary steps, towards the entry into a wider world of massive challenges and trying ups and downs.

The latter half of the Memoirs, is, in effect, a chronicle of his main professional career, as a Doctor of Medicine. It records the story of his professional postings both here and abroad. The total “Memoirs”, speak of a gentle, humane practitioner of medicine, deeply engrossed in the way of life of people. The large number of personalities, mentioned by name in this book, makes it a unique work. It is, veritably a “Who’s Who” of people, who flourished in various fields of like, during the decades, this work focuses upon.
For all you know, your name too is likely to figure here, in some context.

The calm restrained style of writing, makes the book eminently readable. Although the work traces the progress of a professional practitioner of medicine, the major and minor events, that the author has had to wade through, make it, strangely enough, as absorbing as a work of fiction. The cliche, that fact is stranger than fiction may be apt here. There is, for instance, the episode in which the author is caught up in a plane crash. This real-life tragedy and the miraculous escape of the author, unscathed, but for a swollen ankle, add a dramatic depth to the whole narration.

Professional travels, took the author to various parts of the world. His narration of these tours, gives the work the feel of a “travelogue’ as well.

The total impression given by the ‘Memoirs’, is that the reader has been given the opportunity to meet a cultured professional, who has an intense love of his mother country and a marked ardour for serene domesticity. In his concluding segment, we come upon the author as a voyager who has reached a calm haven, after tumultuous travails. He nursed the dream, that the day he and his wife will live in retirement, in Sri Lanka. He reinforces this resolve by saying that “my homeland attracted me like a magnet”.

The work comes in an elegant hand-cover version. And, all the author’s experiences are available to the reader at Rs.750. This is indeed a memorable Memoir.
Contact email address:-

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dr. Michael Satchie (USA)

By Dr. Sirry Cassim

To put pen to paper in writing an appreciation on the demise of a close friend is a sorrowful task. SATCHIE (Satchitananthan) and I entered the portals of our hallowed  school Royal College, Colombo way back in  1954. He was admitted to the Tamil stream while my admission was to the English stream. Fate had it that a last longing bond between me and Satchie covering  three score years was to commence in 1956 when we were absorbed into the same class. It maybe the not so vociferous nature of both of us could have cemented this friendship as Satchie was a soft spoken personality thus blending us together. Satchie was a genius in many aspects but never asserted this characteristic in him; he was also methodical in his ways. He had an unusual trait generally stepping out of line as many of us opted to do Geography as a subject and if my memory serves me well Satchie chose Greek as his subject and was the only one in our batch to do so. His versatility was proved that in spite of doing classics, he ended up being a doctor.

Satchie was an excellent swimmer. I reminisce with a touch of melancholy the days when Satchie and I used to go to the St Joseph’s College pool (as Royal did not have a pool then) for swimming, Satchie coming all the way on his push bike from his Wellawatte residence to mine at Colpetty to pick me up, and then I do the riding while Satchie is on the bar avoiding the watchful eyes of the cops. After a good swim at the pool we go back on the same route I getting off at Colpetty and Satchie pedalling all the way home to Wellawatte

Satchie had extraordinary literary talents as were exemplified in his poetry and anecdotes, and another outstanding strait that he possessed was a beautiful fist which we all envied. His calligraphic writing was quite exquisite. I have a treasured possession of a beautiful rendering in poetry he composed in 1991 in commemoration of the marriage of my daughter, a grand masterpiece reflecting the close friendship we bore through the several years. He was an excellent chess player and also a versatile cook.

Satchie opted to do Paediatrics as a career. He proceeded to the US. In my long association with him I observed he had a habit of coming up especially after graduation with some intriguing and problematic questions which often kept us dumbfounded and grappling for a reply. One instance he posed me being an eye surgeon, the question what types of dreams the people born blind do dream of. I was unable to find a suitable reply and threw this question to the audience during my Presidential address  at the College of Ophthalmologists. I still do not till this day have the correct answer. Satchie was very keen on music and his repertoire ranged from Classics to contemporary music. In those halcyon days he used to advise me on what type of  Hi Fi equipment I should invest on.

I last spoke to my close buddy Satchie about a month ago and I was sad to hear of his decision not to fight his illness which plagued him for sometime. His family life also had many a pitfall losing his father in the dark days of the 1983 riots. His brother, Dr.Harin, too predeceased him having passed away a few years ago after making a name in New York as a leading Paediatrician.

Satchie spent his retirement glued onto the computer and he used to call his room the Ashram. Many a time we had long conversations on the phone on the subject of religion where we had diametrically opposite views. I sorely miss those long discussions and friendly discourses that kept us glued to the phone for hours with Satchie,which will retain in my memory for a long time.

 Goodbye farewell my dear friend I will surely miss your grand association and warmth friendship in the years ahead.

I conclude this tribute to Satchie  with a befitting couplet  from Gray’s Elegy which our great teacher and icon at Royal,  the late Viji Weerasinghe taught us in his English Literature class which is etched in my memory.  





Thomas Gray


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering Bernard Randeniya

It's nearly 12 long years since our friend and colleague Bernard passed away. In this short essay, "ND" recollects his association with his bosom pal.

Bernard Randeniya – A Life Remembered
By Nihal D Amerasekera
At Medical College he was known as RADW Bernard. Although we were in the same year I got to know Bernard when my parents moved to his home town of Wattala in 1963. We travelled daily by train to Maradana with Razaque Ahamath. We began to study together for the intensely difficult 2nd MB examination and struck up a friendship which lasted a lifetime. During those heady days of our youth, there were many fun filled events like the Block Nite, Colours Nite and other Medical College functions. Those bring back numerous memories of music, dancing, fun and laughter. Bernard always featured in them prominently and never missed an opportunity to enjoy.
He immersed himself fully in the life of the University playing a full part in its activities, always. Bernard took part in the festivities of the infamous Law-Medical match with the rest of us. I recall with much fondness the camaraderie during a trip to Kandy with Bernard, Lucky Abeygunawardene, Sanath de Tissera and Lakshman Jayasinghe.  These are memories that will remain with us for many more years.
After Internship in Ragama he married Ranjani Wijetunge, his sweetheart from schooldays. I visited them when he was DMO in Rattota, MOH in Minneriya, Medical Superintendent in Kalutara and also when he was the Director of the Cancer Institute Maharagama. In this his final posting  I was immensely fortunate to be his host in England when he visited the UK for a Conference. Each time we reminisced at great length the good life in Medical College and the wonderful friendship we enjoyed.
Bernard was held in high esteem in the Health Service as one of its most colourful and successful managers, and as a man who led from the front and inspired all those who worked with him. His great professionalism was accompanied by an infectious enthusiasm for life and mischievous sense of humour. He used his charm and skills of persuasion to obtain expensive equipment for the Cancer Institute to benefit the numerous patients who came for treatment. Despite his achievements he was also a modest man, protective of his privacy, embarrassed by praise and with a deep aversion for publicity.
In early 1999 when we met up in Colombo, he gave me the sad news of his illness which proved terminal. I kept in touch with him and admire the courage which he showed until the very end. He passed away with great dignity in November 1999 at the age of 58 years. Bernard was a devout Catholic . His faith gave him great comfort during his final illness.
His cheeky grin and infectious laugh are precious memories for us all. Bernard was my best friend and I will miss him. He was far too young to leave us.
May his soul Rest in Peace.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dreaming aloud - On being a medical student forty years ago

This article by "ND" appeared in the Sunday Island of 13th July, 2003. As we march up to our 50th Anniversary and a fitting Reunion, it's certainly worth a re-read.

Dreaming aloud - On being a medical student forty years ago

By Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera FRCP, FRCR (Medical College Colombo 1962-67)
Consultant Radiologist (UK)

In the 1960’s in Sri Lanka career choice was rather limited by parental influence. Those who were clever studied medicine. Those who were good with their hands (no brains needed?) went into engineering. Those who were crafty and cunning chose law! The many who were not good at anything went into politics. I was the odd man out being in the last category. I chose medicine. It is hard to describe my excitement at entering Medical College. I felt in some strange way this was my destiny. Nothing else was more important. I looked forward to hard work anticipating the fabulous goal ahead. I felt the romance of being a bohemian medical student. I felt special. I was proud and arrogant. I presume I am allowed to have these delusions of grandeur as a teenager with all my life before me. I must confess, now approaching the end of my medical career I see it all differently.
Then there were only 2 medical schools – Colombo and Peradeniya. They were both excellent and maintained the highest academic standards. As for rivalry there was none. Each respected the other and some even moved from one to the other with a bit of "influence". With many new medical schools in Ragama, Galle and Jaffna the situation may be different.

We had a baptism of fire in the first week of the rag. It won’t be fair to apply the liberal values of the 21st Century to those days 40 years ago. Walking to Medical College with a brinjal round my neck left many onlookers bemused and bewildered. I in turn ragged my juniors. It was done without any malice and with due consideration to the feelings of the recipient.

We had the ignominy of being ragged twice for our misdemeanours during our Law-Medical match. The intrusions into a girl school and a cricket match in Colombo 7 brought out the best and the worst in us. We were all packed into an open top truck used to transport cattle. There were two large barrels, one filled with toddy which smelt and tasted like water from the Beira. The other had draught beer minus the froth and fizz. We took generous gulps from the barrels and the molasses arrack which was passed round. The decoction felt like a lighted stick of dynamite placed in my liver. The truck travelled the busy streets of Colombo amidst the cheers and jeers of onlookers. None were sober and I cannot recall a single ball being bowled on that day. Our excesses were graphically exposed in the daily papers and The Dean, Prof. Abhayaratne, called a meeting of the first years. He said every person who took part will be identified using a special photo microscope (there is no such thing) and punished severely. On looking back we realise how cleverly he handled the situation without allowing the Police to take any action. I presume it must be in our personal files. We were suspended for 2 weeks and fined Rs. 50.

Life at Medical College began in the "Block". There we dissected the human bodies dispassionately in our youthful enthusiasm and our search for knowledge. Tearing a body of a real person apart from head to toe despite its immersion in formalin still makes me cringe. As I write this I’m amazed we could face this ordeal day after day. Perhaps our youth and the need to learn gave us some protection. I couldn’t face that same task with that same detachment now.

The fortnightly tests called signatures in the "Block" were a nightmare. Those standing around the "convicts" who were being questioned always knew the answers. Prof. Waas often brought some light relief to the otherwise electric atmosphere. He asked a student "what passes through the foramen magnum?" Pat came the answer "food, Sir". Waas not willing to be outdone said "Its gallons and gallons of booze".

The detailed anatomy we learnt which had no relevance whatsoever to clinical medicine evaporated even before we crossed Kynsey Road. The physiology went completely over my head and Samson Wright (our text book) couldn’t help me and neither could Prof. Koch and Carlo Fonseka. A name that has stuck in my mind from physiology is that of "Prick Perera". He pricked our finger to get a drop of blood for us to perform a blood count during the practicals. There were 3 girls in our batch who were inseparable and always together. They were rather unkindly called Anorexia, Nausea and Vomiting and the names stuck until they left Medical College. Even to this day when I see them it is as if those names are tattooed on their foreheads.
In those days everyone knew his place. The master and servant, teacher and student, rich and poor, parent and child accepted the situation gracefully. These associations have now changed mostly for the better. The third year was relatively easy as there were no exams but the many lectures and copious notes kept us busy. We copied the lecturers every word including the jokes, inadvertently. The third MB was dominated by Pathology and Pharmacology. Path Cooray our Professor of Pathology was an institution and I remember to this day his mastery of General Pathology. His notes were our Bible and the only way to heaven. Prof. Chapman’s Bacteriology and Prof. Dissanayake’s Parasitology were a lot of work for little reward. I would always remember Prof. HVJ Fernando and Dr. WDL Fernando (then JMO Colombo) for their superb rendition of the well known song about the "Officers daughter who hanged and died" during a function at the Health Department Sports Club at Castle Street. Their Forensic Medicine only comes a close second.
Dr. NDW Lionel’s Pharmacology lectures were interesting and complete. He had a keen mind and a kind soul. His demise must have been a great loss to Pharmacology in Sri Lanka. Prof. Abhayaratne was affectionately called "Pachaya". Despite his broad exterior he was the quintessential gentleman. His Public Health lectures were a masterly collection of English prose. The breeding grounds of the mosquito were "tins and cans and pots and pans". The disadvantages of a tin roof – "Hot during hot weather, cold during cold weather and noisy during rainy weather". He spoke as if he designed the lavatory squatting plate . I saw in a peripheral unit which had a squatting plate with the toes together and the heels wide apart. What contortion would be needed to do the daily ablutions.

The wards brought us in contact with patients and the Visiting Physicians and Surgeons. They were our teachers. What great characters some of them were! I hope they still are. Their physical features, anger, smile and even the smell seem printed in my mind. Some had tempers like erupting volcanoes. They somehow seem indestructible. Even now after 40 years it gives me a shock and a pang to read of the death of an old teacher. The teachers at Medical College, Physicians and Surgeons seem permanent and the majority stayed on until retirement. Although they had lucrative Private Practice they had great loyalty to the students. They considered the studentship in medicine as an apprenticeship and took us under their wing. I often feel that many of our older teachers, some of them though eccentric, may turn in their graves at the disloyalty and opportunism of some of our modern teachers. When I now look at some of the old photos and even see the names of those doctors, their faces, mannerisms and voices come easily to mind.

Medical students were held in high regard by the general public as clever and hard working and we drove the point home carrying the naked human skull in buses and trains for all to see. There were reports of old women and young children fainting at this ghastly sight. Displaying the stethoscope prominently was another trick up our sleeve. The students walked the corridors with an air of authority and sometimes briskly as if rushing to save a life. Behind this facade the student were worked to the ground and lived in constant fear of professorial appointments and the oncoming examinations.

The appointments (the 2 month learning assignment) of Rajasooriya and Ranasinghe were a nightmare. They practiced zero tolerance. It was like being in the front line in a war. Many got "shot" but some survived to move on. There must be a better way to learn a trade!! Wijenaike, Medonza, Ratnavale, Attygalle, Ernie Peries, R. P. Jayawardene, P. R. Anthonis Darell Weinman , Cabraal, K. G. Jayasekera , Austin , Milroy Paul, Prof. Navaratne and DFDS Gunawardene during my time were an integral part of the institution that moulded our lives. The appointments with them were a great pleasure and often ended with a grand dinner. They taught us the bedside manners, clinical signs and the nuances of medicine not described in books. I learnt my trade with Dr. Thanabalasunderam who is one of the finest teachers I have had. I fear, I give the impression that these teachers were virtuous and without fault. They were human and in one way or another difficult, egotistical, strong minded and demanding. They loved teaching and their profession. They made good friends. I wouldn’t want them as enemies. Having said this I have the greatest respect for many of them.
As we read and saw patients with real clinical problems I saw some of those clinical features in my own self. I have diagnosed myself to be suffering with diseases ranging from stomach ulcer to rheumatoid arthritis. We realised the fragility of life and also our own mortality. Using the stethoscope to time the heart sounds and murmurs caused me immense grief. On many occasions I must have imagined bronchial breathing and pericardial rubs. Looking for clubbing and feeling for the spleen became second nature to me. The patients with ‘good‘ clinical signs never had any peace from medical students. Some mistook this for research and special attention for the greater good of humanity. Mostly they had little choice.

My lasting memory of my days as a student are the long corridors that criss-crossed the grounds of the General Hospital Colombo connecting the wards, clinics and theatres and the many pals who joked and laughed with us during those long treks. The hospital of about 2500 beds with at least a thousand under the beds was a store house of clinical material.

We were all in our late teens or early 20’s and the hormones were at their peak with tensions bulging at the seams. The Block Nite (Annual Medical College Dance) and the Colours Nite (both held at the University in Reid Avenue) were an opportunity to give vent to our feelings. Many were on the prowl looking for "bits". Sam the Man provided the music and for many of us the words of the Rolling Stones "I can get no satisfaction" described our feelings.

The lucky ones took their female companions to dance the night away. Some found happiness in the back seat of a Morris Minor whilst others got drunk to end their frustrations. I once took a partner twice my size for the dance. As everyone in the dance floor was gyrating and clicking their fingers I was pushing a 2 ton truck up Kadugannawa. The halitosis nearly killed me. I envied the frustrated onlookers around the dance floor who were scratching their groins to calm the nerves. The Block Nite started with a hilarious concert by the ‘block virgins’ and our actors who provided fabulous entertainment for some of the Professors and other students who had the courage to attend. Like at all Medical College social events the booze flowed freely and only a few were sober by the end of the hard days night. It is some comfort that the drug scene had not reached us yet.

The Bloemfontein Medical hostel was home to about 100 students. It had a pernicious reputation and was famous for its camaraderie and unity amongst its inhabitants. Many of the mischief attributed to the medics were planned and executed by them and were feared by most.

The women’s hostel was the "Hopper House" next to the Nurses Quarters. The nurses called "CODS" dominated the dreams of many "Medicos" They made our lives worthwhile during those traumatic times in Medical College. I spent my final year at the Jeevaka Buddhist Hostel in Colpetty. It was a peaceful and happy place with its own brand of Lankan humour.

The buildings of the College form a large part of my memories. The "Block" was built in 1913 as shown in a large plaque at the entrance. The smell of the dissected bodies will last in my memory for many years longer. The "New Anatomy lecture theatre" was airy and well designed. The Administration, Physiology and Pathology buildings were of Colonial architecture and surrounded the quadrangle with a small animal farm to house experimental animals. The clock tower, milk booth and the cycle shed are a part of our memories too. The Common Room was our refuge and the domain of the male of the species. No female dared to use it and few who passed through were greeted with whistles and catcalls. For some it was a second home. They were the chronic failures who were the pillars of the Common Room.

I still recall an honourable senior who completed a half hour game of billiards without removing the fag from his lips. Obviously he has done so for the past 8 years. "Uncle" managed the canteen which was the place for a "tea punt". Dr. Alles the College Medical Officer was often seen here enjoying a fag with Prof. Abhayaratne. In those days Bristol and 4 Aces were the affordable popular brands of cigarettes.
For some love blossomed at Medical College but for others the blossoms withered away.. The lucky ones paraded their partners in the evening along the byways around the General Hospital Colombo. The stench of the wide drains at Norris Canal road was hardly conducive for a romantic stroll. Some associations were purely recreational whilst others had the stamp of permanency.

"Final year medical student" meant many things to many people. To me it was the light at the end of the tunnel. To our parents it was time to look for fat dowries and start bargaining with marriage brokers. To the general public we were full of the latest medicine had to offer but lacked practical experience. It was a nice feeling indeed to be wanted and appreciated. The next best thing that happened to us was the final year trip. We all went in a coach first to Kurunegala where we stayed at the Masonic Hall and then to Badulla and Ratnapura. I recall a famous power cut during our dinner at Kurunegala and the only time we could see the food was when there was lightening . The doctors treated us with great respect and the hospitality was superb. In turn we provided our usual entertainment of jokes and play acting. It was all done in the best spirits as alcohol was never in short supply. The trip brought us closer together as a batch. All the students at Medical College by tradition belonged to one brotherhood and showed tremendous unity. The intimacy, laughter and kinship of those years still linger in my mind.

Past midnight after a whole day of study sometimes we indulged in watching "XXX films". The physical activity on celluloid was often too much for the audience who were at the verge of a nervous breakdown. For some the volcano erupted even before the show ended. Others even saw the 8mm films in reverse. Thank goodness such actions are physically impossible in real life.

The "Finals" as it was called then went on for nearly 6 weeks and we were taken in and out of rooms like cattle for slaughter. The wear and tear on our coronaries must have started then. It was not as difficult as we had imagined and most of us got the licence to practice medicine. I remember the day when the results were posted on the notice board at College. Many were ecstatic. I said my goodbyes to friends many of whom I never saw again.

I cannot believe it is 40 years since those happy days. It seems like yesterday when I walked into Medical College for the first time. I am convinced we couldn’t have had a better medical education anywhere else. On looking back, self fulfilment and happiness in life finally depended on our destiny and not on the grades we achieved in our medical exams. We had little or no control over our fate.

With all the medical knowledge available on the internet, books, magazines and journals you may think the doctors will be made redundant. The words of Mark Twain come to mind "Be careful of reading health books, you may die of a misprint".

I dedicate these memoirs to my parents who had confidence in my ability when I had doubts.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dr. P. Sivasubramaniam Memorial Oration 2011

Members of our batch continue to shine in their chosen fields. Consultant Ophthalmologist Chirasri Jayaweera Bandara nee Mallawaratchi delivered the Dr. P. Sivasubramaniam Memorial Oration 2011 at the Annual Scientific Sessions of the Sri Lanka College of Ophthalmologists held at the Galadari Hotel on 3rd September. Her oration was on on "My Experiences in Keratoplasty".

Educate a Child Trust (EACT)

Educate a Child Trust (EACT) is the brainchild of one of the most distinguished members of our batch - Pramilla Kannangara Senanayake. Pram (as she is fondly called) is a distinguished Public Health Physician who continues to raise funds and runs a project to educate poor children in the fishing villages of Southern Sri Lanka. It is called the Educate a Child Trust (EACT) project presently being implemented in Dediyawala village for the tsunami affected people.
 As the Assistant Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) from which position she retired a few years ago, she had responsibility not only for medical programmes, but also for IPPF’s AIDS, Safe Motherhood and Youth and Adolescent Program. She was awarded an honorary FACOG in 2006 for her work in Reproductive Health. She has also been awarded the FRCOG and the FSLCOG from the UK & Sri Lankan Colleges respectively
Her most recent fund raising event took place on August 3rd, 2011.
The third of August was a very special day.  850 of the poorest children in Kalutara were eagerly waiting for the outcome of the evening.  Some were thinking “Will we be able to go to school next year”?  “Will we be able to get our shoes, uniforms, pens, exercise books etc. so we can attend school”?  Others were anxious to attend after school classes in English and computer lessons.  “Will the classes continue”?  “Will we be able to have the excellent teachers who have so far taught us”? “Will we be able to continue the special tuition classes before we sit our A levels or O level examinations”?
On the 3rd August in the Ivy room of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel some 120 philanthropists gathered. They were there to pledge their support to the Educate a Child Trust, and for a chance to personally meet some of the wonderful children that have been given an opportunity to learn and grow through the project. The Educate a child Trust was set up by Dr Pramilla Senanayake in 1984. The trust now provides;
1.       Necessary wherewithal for 850  children in the Kalutara District  to  attend local schools in  Kalutara area.(The Trust provides shoes, uniforms, school bags, writing books, pens, pencils, paints, boxes of mathematical instruments etc)
2.        Extra tuition classes for promising students
3.        English and IT classes at the Trust’s Community Centre.
4.       Nutritious meals for children attending classes at the community centre
5.       A health clinic which takes care of the health needs of the children and adults.
The overhead costs of the project are in the region of 8%. In spite of this the running costs of the project are in the region of Rs 650,000. The reception was to launch this fund.  Sponsors could choose to become platinum sponsors (by making a one-off donation of Rs 500,000), gold by donation of Rs 200,000 and silver by donating Rs 100,000). In return, the sponsor would be able to sponsor individual children, visit the project, and be proud of the take ownership of the successes of the project. For example, some 15,000 children have passed through the project. Some are at university, one child is at medical school, and 20 have qualified as chartered accountants. One child has graduated with a BSc in nursing. The photo shows some of the sponsors.
The event attracted some of Sri Lanka’s elite, true givers and supporters of good causes.  Amongst them were Nihal and Shirani Thenabadu, Lilamani and Gnanissara, Thilak and Sunila De Zoysa, Rohini and Nihal Jayamanna, Padma Maharaja, Priyanthi Fernando, Anoma and Hemaka Amarasuriya, Priyan Senanayake, Mike and Dilani Russell, Haadia Galey, Anusha David, Hussein Esufally, Sarath Kahawewitharana, Surani Taleyratne, Emmanuel and Lawrence, Thushara Agus, Ranee Brennan, Chandran and Nihara Ratnam, Mangala and Gnana Moonesinghe,  Avanti Esufally, SK Wickremasinghe, Nalin and Ruwani Karunaratne, Kisani and Gerald, Singha & Mala Weerasekera and Ruki Wickremasinghe. In addition, Munir Samji  a Trustee of the UK EACT came over especially for the launch. He was accompanied by his beautiful wife Farah.
 The invitation to the event was in the form of an exercise book designed by courtesy of Leo Burnett. The invitee was asked to write a message of encouragement to a child and to bring the book to the event.  The books will ultimately be given to deserving children.   Some of the messages were well thought through and were very moving.  Guests were provided a sumptuous buffet by courtesy of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.  The very well-known flutist Thilanka Jayamanna entertained the guests.  So did Dilani David. They were both accompanied by Sureka Amerasinghe on piano. It will be re-launched  in September in the UK.  For those who may not be able to get to one of the launches, a viral video produced courtesy of Leo Burnett was screened. The idea is to send the video by e-mail around the world, so that those interested in becoming a sponsor could do so by e-mailing Dr Senanayake at psen13@

Gnanissara and his wife Lilamani with guests