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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Speedy's Reunion Presentation

“Challenges and  Opportunities in an Ageing Society”

Summary of  Lecture delivered at the 50th Anniversary Reunion Academic session of the Medical Entrants of 1962 in Sri lanka on the 1st of September 2012 by  Dr Mahendra Gonsalkorale.

The World population is growing rapidly. From an estimated 2.5 billion in 1950, it reached 6.1 billion in 2000 and is projected to grow to 8.2 billion in 2025. It took over 4000 years to reach 2 billion but it will take less than 75 years to quadruple that number. Sri lanka’s current population of just over 20 million will grow to 23 million by 2030. People are also surviving longer at all ages and more and more are achieving old age. Increased life expectancy is a Global phenomenon. Correspondingly, due to decease in fertility rates, there is less than the expected numbers of younger people, and the net result is a change in the age distribution pyramid from the familiar broad based, gradually tapering shape as in the mid 60s and before, to one with a relatively narrower base with a “fat” middle (the older people) and a taller shape (because of the persistence of the very old).

 The proportion of elderly people in all countries is increasing. From about 4-10% just 50 years ago to 15-20% now and expected to increase to 25-30% in the mid 2000s. In Sri lanka, there are about 1.9 million over the age of 60 (10%) and this is expected to increase to 4.5 million (25%) by 2040. In America, there are currently around 40 million over 65s compared to 23M just 50 years ago. Within the over 60s, there is a massive increase in the very old. The balance between the older and younger is affected and this will have a significant effect on the care of older people and in the financing of pensions.


More old people and less (proportionately) young people means

       More age associated diseases such as  dementia (Alzheimer’s), cardiovascular diseases,

                degenerative neurological disorders, cancer, arthritis and related disorders, chronic        respiratory disease, other chronic diseases.

       Increase in disability levels in the population

       Less people to support and care for older people.

       Large increases in health and social care costs. 

The burden of Dementia is one of the most worrying concerns for the future. The WHO estimates that worldwide, nearly 35.6 million people live with dementia. This is expected to double by 2030 (65.7 million) and more than triple by 2050 (115.4 million). The vast majority of these will be elderly.

Dementia affects people in all countries, with more than half (58%) living in low- and middle-income countries. By 2050, this is likely to rise to more than 70%. The WHO observes that only eight countries worldwide currently have national programmes in place to address dementia 

This may all sound very negative but there is a more optimistic view to be taken and with greater preparation and anticipation of need, the lives of both the elderly and the young could be enhanced. Older people can have a better quality of life and the young could look forward to a time of fulfilment and relative leisure when they become old. 

Some of the challenges that need to be met are the following. 

(1)    Meeting health, social and housing needs. These are also fuelled by rising expectations, technological advances which are often costly, medical breakthroughs and other factors

(2)    Resourcing  (financial and other)  the demands of an ageing population who consume more resources, with the added factor of a relative decrease  in economically productive young wage earners

(3)    Evolving a society devoid of intergenerational disputes and replete with respect and love - a cohesive, equitable and productive society, with the wisdom and maturity of old age balancing the exuberance of youth. Today’s young are tomorrow’s old, all have a stake. 

These challenges could be met by adopting various measures such as, 

(1)    A major shift in attitudes and perceptions of what it means to progress through life from birth to death, getting rid of the negative image of old age, utilisation of a range of skills and talents of old people set free from the need to pursue active employment, greater involvement in voluntary work, providing support for children and grandchildren.  

(2)    When the retirement age was set years ago, the expectation was that retired people would live on the average about 5 years more before they die according to life expectation at the time. This has changed over the years and at present, retired people can expect to live at least a further 10 years or more. This has major funding implications and current pension arrangements are not sustainable and the concept of retirement needs to be reviewed. The Shakespearean concept of 3 score years and 10 is outmoded and a good model is one of the 3 ages, the first is one of growing up and learning, the second is one of adulthood with employment, marriage and parenthood and the third age is one of gradual withdrawal from active employment with pursuit of leisure. These are blend into each other. 

(3)    Forward planning to meet the demands of a large increase in the number of old people.  

(4)    Change emphasis from a Disease Model to a Preventive model. The aim is to ensure that longevity is matched by a long disability-free period and not by the nightmare scenario of prolonging life by extending the period of disabled life that often precedes death, using the old adage, “add life to years and not years to life”.

(5)    Towards this end, the message that for a healthy old age, living a healthy life when you are young has to be promoted. Among suggested measures are :- 

       control of hypertension,

       attention to a proper diet, weight control

       regular mental and physical exercise

       correction of lipid abnormalities

       smoking cessation

       correction of abnormalities of heart rhythm  such as atrial fibrillation

       Social interventions, e.g., the provision of libraries, heating allowances, free health checks which though needing funding will produce long term savings and benefits.

       Imaginative housing and home care schemes

       incentives such as low cost or free recreational facilities and transport for older people  

(6)    Creative use of new technologies e.g., use of telemedicine, smart homes, house robots.  

(7)    Suitable national and international legislation to protect older people. 

(8)    It is also suggested that we need to rethink our attitude to death and prolongation of life. The largest proportion of the total healthcare budget spent per person is at the end of life.

                Death is as inevitable as life and without death, life cannot be sustained. Death is not a                 failure, accept death with dignity and equanimity.  

In conclusion,  

We have to change the way we think about how we live and progress from birth to death.

We have to re-engineer the concept of retirement

We need to devote more resources towards dementia research

We need to fight against ageism, paternalism. We need to get away from the concept of a World for the Young to a World for All.

We need to harness the immense potential of technology and remain optimistic.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hooray! Our blog "hits" have just topped 10,000

Hello Viewers,

I am happy to announce that our blog has had 10,000 pageviews as at 29th September, 2012. I started this blog on March 16th, 2011 with the following posting.

Planning for the 50th Anniversary

Hello Everyone!

As we start planning for our 50th Anniversary of entering medical school, I have taken the first steps in developing a simple blog for easier communication. It is primarily for the 1962 entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known). The blog will carry important news items, pictures, e-mail messages, announcements etc. Please feel free to send in your comments to: or direct to my personal e-mail address: We can improve on it as we go on and gather momentum.

In 18 months, we have had 10,000 "hits".

Lakshman Abeyagunawardene (Lucky)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka honours Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

When I started this blog in March 2011, it was primarily meant to be a part of the build-up towards the 50th Anniversary Reunion that we successfully concluded earlier this month. Whenever possible, I have also highlighted noteworthy achievements of our batch colleagues since then. This is what I have recorded so far.
1.      Sanath Lamabadusuriya – SLMA President 2011.

2.      Chirasri Mallawaratchi Jayaweera Bandara - Dr. P. Sivasubramaniam Memorial Oration 2011.

3.      Pramilla Kannangara Senanayake – Founder of Educate a Child Trust (EACT).

4.      Mahendra Gonsalkorale – Prof. S.R. Kottegoda Memorial Oration 2011.

5.      Suriyakanthi Karunaratne Amarasekara and Chirasri Mallawarchchi Jayaweera Bandara – among recipients of SLMA  ‘Outstanding Health Professional’ Awards to mark International Women’s Day 2012.
6.      N. D. Amerasekara – Recipient of a special plaque awarded by his old school Wesley College in September 2012 for his services as Editor of the school website ˜Double Blue Internationalâ”.
7.      Lareef Idroos – Re-elected President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America, West Coast in March 2012. He was first elected to the post in February 2010.

I am now pleased to share the news that I was admitted as a Fellow of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka at the Inauguration of its Annual Scientific Sessions on Thursday 20th September 2012. This is in recognition of services rendered to Public Health/Community Medicine.
Accepting the award from the President of the College Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne. 
The following Citation was read by Dr. Santhushya Fernando.

Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene was born in Hikkaduwa on October 22nd, 1941 at the height of the Second World War. He was educated at Ananda College, Colombo, and passed the University Entrance examination held in December 1960. Having entered the Science Faculty of the University of Ceylon to follow the 1st MB course in June 1961 when such course was conducted for the last time, he was then admitted to the Colombo Medical Faculty the following year in June 1962. Dr. Abeyagunawardene graduated with the MBBS degree in March 1967. Following his Internship at the General Hospital, Colombo South, he worked in the clinical field for two years before opting voluntarily for a career in public health long before being called up for mandatory service as a Medical Officer of Health. Starting as an MOH at Matara in 1970, he later joined the Health Education Bureau (HEB) of the Ministry of Health before leaving for the United States on a World Health Organization (WHO) Fellowship in March 1974.
He specialised in public health and health education and obtained the degree of Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of California, Berkeley, USA in 1975. On his return, Dr. Abeyagunawardene continued his service in the HEB as a Health Education Specialist. In 1986, he was certified as a consultant in community medicine by the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM) following conferment of the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD) in community medicine (by research) by the University of Colombo.
While serving the Health Education Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Abeyagunawardene was in charge of the Community Health Education sub unit and in later years, the Training sub unit as well. In that capacity, he directed the highly successful Family Health Education Action Programme mobilising village level volunteers for health action throughout the length and breadth of the country. Apart from his involvement in his own research studies, Dr. Abeyagunawardene has supervised research projects and dissertations of MD and M SC candidates of the PGIM. Dr. Abeyagunawardene has the distinction of coordinating the M SC course in Health Education when the PGIM doors were thrown open to non- medical and non-dental health professionals. He has also served as a member of the Board of Study in Community Medicine of the PGIM over an extensive period until he left government service in 1990.
Having served the Government of Sri Lanka for 23 years, he opted for early retirement to join the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1990. As a National Professional Officer in UNICEF, Colombo, he continued to work closely with his national counterparts, notably the Health Education Bureau. Apart from other duties, Dr. Abeyagunawardene was responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of UNICEF-funded mass media programmes to promote oral rehydration therapy, iodised salt, child immunisation, and breastfeeding under the Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative.
Dr. Abeyagunawardene has also served the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Commonwealth Secretariat of London as a short term consultant with assignments in Indonesia and Malaysia. In 1998, he retired prematurely from the UN to emigrate to the United States where he served the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as a Health Education Specialist for a further period of ten years before final retirement in January 2009. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recognised Dr. Abeyagunawardene’s services when he was presented with the Award for Excellence in 2006 for his contribution in the state’s highly successful Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programme.
Dr. Abeyagunawardene joined the Sri Lanka Association of Community Medicine as a life member soon after he opted for a career in Public Health in 1970, and later served as a Committee Member. With the establishment of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka, he continued to serve as a Council member until he left the country in 1997. He has also served as a Council Member of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) for several years.
Dr. Abeyagunawardene has many publications to his credit and has been a regular presenter of scientific papers at the annual sessions of the Sri Lanka Medical Association and the Sri Lanka College of Community Physicians. He won the P.H. Wilson Peiris Memorial Award at the 99th Anniversary Academic Sessions of the SLMA in 1986 for his paper entitled “Factors Influencing the Defaulter Rate of Leprosy Patients in a Hyperendemic Region in Sri Lanka”. A paper entitled “Mobilising Mass Media for Health” which outlined an evaluation of the HEB’s very first series of media seminars was published in the prestigious international health journal “World Health Forum” of the WHO in 1988. Dr. Abeyagunawardene published his Memoirs in 2009 with his book entitled “From Hikkaduwa to the Carolinas – Memoirs of a Reluctant Expatriate”. Dr. Abeyagunawardene returned to Sri Lanka on a permanent basis in 2009 and straightaway involved himself in CCP activities by sharing his US experience in childhood lead poisoning and prevention with the general membership at the College’s scientific sessions in 2010. Dr. Abeyagunawardene now lives in Battaramulla with his wife Mangala. They have a son and daughter and three grandchildren.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Re-elected President of the SLMA of N. America, West Coast

                                                              Lareef Idroos

Lareef Idroos was re-elected President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America, West Coast in March 2012. He was first elected to the post in February 2010.

Long before Muralitharan became a household name, Lareef was Sri Lanka’s ace spin bowler who played for St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia (as captain), SSC and University of Ceylon and also represented the country with distinction before the country gained test status. Lareef who is a Nephrologist is now domiciled in California.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How it began and how it ended


 March 2011




September 2012                                  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reminiscences of 50th Anniversary batch-reunion

Reminiscences of 50th Anniversary batch-reunion

Aug 31st to September 2nd (bonus 3rd Sept) 2012

Finally, we were on the buses

After months of gleeful anticipation

Hundred plus- batch-mates and spouses

With an air of cheery jubilation

  There were strategic stops, initially

  At Med School and National Hospital briefly

  ‘Hikka, here we come! Look out!’

  As a group none has a better clout

On the way, Jokes to make you wheeze

No group was spared, not Sinhalese

No religion, no clan excluded

No groups, Jaffna Tamils included!

  There was one pit stop for emergency

  It was marked with a capital Pee!

  (We all chuckled in glee)

  Food went round, with fizzy drinks

  While a few grabbed forty winks

  Hikka! We’re here, the Batch 62

  From SL, US, UK, CA, and Aussies too

With our first faltering steps it started

50 years ago when, form ‘normal’ life we parted

But since then what an adventure we faced

Ups and downs, triumphs, failures left us dazed

  During 3 days and two nights unforgettable

  Members, spouses, enjoyed the unrepeatable

  Food galore, meetings, jokes, song, dance

  Such a spirited group,1st time in Chaya Tranz?

Our dear departed mates we remember

Sadly and reverently this September

You won’t be forgotten, never!

You live in our hearts forever.

  Came the time for Academic Presentation

  Sriyani delivered a delectable oration

  About ‘urge to merge’ and procrastination

  Which sadly ends in non-consummation!

Speedy’s subject equally challenging

Was ‘Problems faced by population, ageing’

With his fantastic wit fluency and diction

He neatly sifted fact from fiction!

  These star acts were only a start up

  For more highlights-photos, food, knees up!

  Of ladies in finery, gents in plush trousers

  For photos of batchmates and long suffering                        


  Some tried to hide from glare of publicity

  But the camera caught every pose and graceful


Lunch next with drinks, a welcome high

We said ‘Howdy’ now we say Goodbye

For tonight we can dance, rattle and shake

But tomorrow brings tears and heartache

Dear Mal,Yoga, Lucian, and Mahesan

To you all- Au revoir, Bye, Aybowan, Wanakkam

  Class of ’62 Friends for over 50 years

  Go in triumph not in tears

Organizing Committee, we salute thee and thank

Your group ‘midst people, highly rank

For your talents, hard work, dedication

We offer our heartfelt appreciation

 And so, back to buses with our bags

 Still cheerful with our jokes and gags

 Feeling rather down but NOT OUT!

 Hi, Chira, Kusuma, heard the one about--?


Monday night arrives with its invitation cordial

From Ken and Swyrie, to their pad celestial

What a night of merriment and glee!

Food galore, drink, music, hospitality

‘Twas a fitting end with felicitations galore

Swyrie and Ken! You are a hard act to follow!


Presented by Zita ZZzz Perera Subasinghe

Photo courtesy, Mahesan Richards                                

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mahesan's Reunion Photos

As you know, Mahesan took a lot of pictures at the recent Batch Reunion with his camera. I have just received the CD he had mailed to me.
Mahesan too has covered parts of the Reunion that the official photographer could not cover (like the hospital tour). He was in the first bus on the outward journey whereas I was in the second. So the pictures taken in the bus have not overlapped with mine. I must also add that his pictures taken with a better camera are of much better quality than my collection.
Please click on the following link to see the pictures.


Monday, September 10, 2012

CoMSAA Get-together at the Bentota Beach Hotel

The first ever Get-together of the Colombo Medical School Alumni Association (CoMSAA) was held at the Bentota Beach Hotel on September 9th, 2012. Probably due to the fact that it followed so soon after our Batch Reunion, only four of us (Bandula Jayasekara, Lucian Perera, Lalini Rajapaksa and myself) attended.

The Guest of Honour was Dr. C. Sivadasan from Singapore who was junior to us. He is the brother of Dr. C. Krishnadasan ("Gin walla") who married a member of our batch Mangalam Sabaratnam.

Please click on the following link for some pictures that I took.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Reunion - Academic session in Pictures


Welcome address - Lakshman Abeyagunawardene
Sanath Lamabadusuriya - Chair
 Mahendra Gonsalkorala - "Challenges and Opportunities of an Ageing Society"
Sriani Basnayake - "What Prevents the Urge to Merge?" - The Problem of Non-Consummation 
The Audience
Vote of Thanks - S.A.P. Gnanissara

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reunion Pictures from my Camera - Part 1

Lobby of Cinnamon Grand Hotel just prior to departure to Chaaya Tranz in Hikkaduwa.

Please click on the link below.

Coverage of the Batch Reunion in the Sunday Times of Sept. 2nd, 2012

Colombo Medical Faculty batch of 62 �renews old ties with outing

They gathered in the lobby of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel on Friday before leaving for a long fun weekend at the Chaaya Tranz, Hikkaduwa. There was not only laughter and jokes but also nostalgia, for some of them had not met for many a long year, as much as 40 years.

Coming from across the world, America, England, Australia and New Zealand and from within Sri Lanka, these eminent doctors were the batch of 1962 who entered the Colombo Medical Faculty, as “penniless young people” as one doctor said, 50 years ago.

The committee which organised the reunion was headed by Dr. Swyrie Balendra and Secretary Dr. Lucky Abeygunawardene.

Nihal (ND) Amerasekera is in the news

This is from the Sunday Times of September 2nd, 2012. ND is a member of our batch.

Wesley College honours past cricketers at gala reunion

A celebration of the contribution of Wesley College, Colombo, to society and a gala reunion will be held by the old boys of the school from September 6-9.

The event will emphasise the role the school has played in moulding the lives of its students with special emphasis on past cricketers.

The celebrations will begin with a special school assembly presided over by Principal Dr. Shanti McLelland, a past Wesleyite, on September 6. The Principal and staff will lead the old boys in procession to Highfield Hall where they will join the Chairman of the Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. A.W. Jebaneson, Chaplain of the school, past teachers and guest speakers representing old boys in Australia, Normal da LaHarpe; United Kingdom, Europe and United States of America, Wimal de Silva; and Sri Lanka, Edmund Dissanayake.

Thirty-two past Wesley 1st XI cricketers who have completed 50 years since representing Wesley will be felicitated with the award of a specially-designed Double Blue Scarf. Dr. Nihal Amerasekara, a distinguished past Wesleyite domiciled in the UK will be awarded a special plaque for his untiring and dedicated services as Editor of the ‘Double Blue International’ website. Two loyal ground staff members, Vincent Perera and Charlis, with over 30 years of service to the school, will be honoured with the award of plaques.

On September 7, a banquet will be held at the Galle Face Hotel, with those who played for Ceylon/Sri Lanka being honoured that evening together with the Editor of the book, ‘Wesley’s Cricket History 1982 -2012’, Jeremy Brohier, a past cricketer and past President of the Old Wesleyites Sports Club. The first copy of the book will be presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a separate ceremony at the President’s Office by the President’s uncle, D.M. Rajapaksa, a past Wesleyite who also represented the 1st XI at cricket in 1916.

On September 9, a cricket match has been organised at Campbell Park which will be followed by a social at the Old Wesleyites’ Sports Club adjoining the Pavilion with its refurbished old railway car as the centrepiece.