Jubilee celebrations of Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya; 50 years in Medical Education

By Dr Ananda Jayasinghe

(Alumnus- 1978 admission Cohort)

Former Head, Department of Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine

University of Peradeniya & Past President, Kandy Society of Medicine

The Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya is the cumulative result of what has been done in the past and it will undoubtedly be enriched by what is being done today. It completes 50 years in serving the nation by January 2012, since the first batch of medical students was registered in January 1962.

Most certainly, 50 years of national duty of highest quality cannot go unappreciated. Therefore, the Dean of the faculty Dr Gamini Buthpitiya, Chairman of the organising committee, Prof M D Lamawansa, members of the organising committee together with academic and non academic staff of the faculty have worked hard to produce an attractive jubilee celebration programme. Thus the faculty is ready for jubilee celebrations, starting on the 3rd of January 2012. The event is an official event of the University of Peradeniya. The Chancellor, Dr Premadasa Udugama and the Vice Chancellor, Prof S B S Abayakoon will grace the occasion.

The Chancellor will declare open the jubilee celebrations. The programme will be complimented by the presentation of 50th Anniversary of the Peradeniya Medical School Commemoration volume, delivery of Bibile Memorial Oration of the Kandy Society of Medicine (on the 3rd of January) and the inauguration of the 11th International Medical Congress (on the 5th of January) of Peradeniya Medical School Alumni Association (PeMSAA) followed by its Scientific session.

The programme of Jubilee Celebrations will consist of 10 important sessions in the field of medicine. During these sessions, the original work of alumni is presented. Two types of exhibitions have been organised; The book exhibition will include the books written and compiled by the alumni and the artwork exhibition will include the paintings, photography and sculpture done by the alumni and staff members. There will also be a programme for entertainment.


Since the establishment of the University of Ceylon in 1942, the University of Peradeniya has been always considered as the centre stage of the Sri Lankan university system.

In 1961, the University of Peradeniya saw the addition of the Faculty of Medicine, to meet the increasing requirement of doctors of the country. The first batch of medical students was registered in January 1962. Over the next five years until 1967, the Faculty of Medicine was under the administration of the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo. In 1967, it finally received full faculty status and became autonomous. Professor Senaka Bibile, the then Professor of Pharmacology, was elected as its first Dean. He served the faculty well with distinction and subsequently, went on to be a giant figure in the fields of Pharmacology and medical education. Later, due to the untiring and pioneering efforts of Professor Bibile, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation was founded in 1972 and he became its founder Chairman.

The faculty accommodated the need of Dental and Veterinary graduates of the country as a national obligation. Therefore, it was giving an umbrella cover for two of these disciplines; hence the faculty was named as ‘Faculty of Medical, Dental and Veterinary Sciences’ until 1980. In this year, the BVSc programme moved out as a new faculty. Later, the BDS programme also moved out and became an independent faculty of the University of Peradeniya in 1986.

Therefore, in its early stages, the students of medical, dental and veterinary streams have had a wonderful opportunity of mixing and working together as they were given common lectures until the completion of the second year examination.

Thus, most of the current senior academic staff members of these two faculties (Dental and Veterinary Sciences) are past students and alumni of the Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya.

Only the men and women who spent 5 years of their prime life at the Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya will know the taste of particular subculture of Peradeniya. Certainly, the jubilee celebrations of the faculty will provide truly a wonderful stage for all attending alumni to share their nostalgic memories and will also enjoy a brief respite from their otherwise busy daily life schedules.

The faculty will gratefully appreciate the services rendered by its pioneering staff members and past deans. It is very necessary and appropriate to mention some of pioneering academic staff members who shouldered the responsibility of teaching the medical students under most challenging conditions, as outside Colombo, at the time, meant very rural !

Those pioneering staff members were; Prof Lester Jayawardene, Prof A D P Jayatilaka, Prof Eugene Wikramanayake, (Anatomy), Dr Janz and Dr R S Watson (Physiology), Prof T W Wikramanayake, Prof A A Hoover& Prof Baptist (Biochemistry), Prof S N Arseculeratne (Microbiology),Prof Malcolm Fernando (Public Health), Prof Senaka Bibile (Pharmacology), Prof Herbert Aponso, Prof W J Gomes(Paediatrics), Prof T Varagunam (Medicine), Prof H S Kirthisinghe, Prof Barr Kumar Kulasinghem (Surgery), Prof B A Jayaweera, Prof A Sinnathamby, Prof M Sivasuriya (Obs & Gynae), Prof Angelo Rodrigo (Psychiatry), Prof George Tennakoon, Prof R G Panabokke (Pathology) Prof H Ranasinghe (Forensic Medicine)

There were some of consultant staff members (extended staff of the faculty), attached to the General Hospital, Kandy, who have played a very important role in those early years and who deserve gratitude of the faculty.

They are; Dr P A P Joseph, Dr Kolitha Karunaratne, Dr B D Dharmasena (later became Professor of Medicine, Peradeniya), Dr Dharmadasa (later became Professor of Medicine, Colombo), Dr C Mylvaganam and Mr Rudra Rasaretnam

At this time of Jubilee Celebrations, the services rendered by the past deans of the faculty who worked under trying circumstances, particularly in the formative years of the faculty , in no unambiguous terms, merit our highest commendation. They are; Professors Senaka Bibile, George E Tennakoon, A D P Jayatilake, Bennet A Jayaweera, Harischandra Ranasinghe, Ralph G Panabokke, Malcolm Fernando, Valentine Basnayaka, Nimal Senanyake, Malini Udupihille Ananda Wijekoon, Chula Goonasekera and Indrajee Amarasinghe


The last batch of medical graduates thatpassed out from the faculty was the 44th in 2011. The faculty is served by over 150 academic staff and 180 non academic staff members. Each year about 200 local students and about 12 – 15 overseas students are admitted to follow the 5 year MBBS degree programme. Therefore, at any given point of the year there is a student population of well over 1000. It has 15 departments of study and six units. The faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya was the first medical faculty to establish a Medical Education Unit (MEU) and an academic department in Anaesthesiology. As such, the first Director / MEU and the first Professor of Anaesthesiology were produced.

Age old medical curriculum was changed and a new curriculum was introduced in 2005 during the Deanship of Professor Ananda Wijekoon. It was from traditional to semester system where a vertical integration was a prominent feature. There are five study streams with many modules up to the end of fourth year. During the final year, four professorial appointments in four traditional disciplines are done. The subject of Psychiatry will feature as a separate subject at the final MBBS examination soon. The medical students from the third year onwards receive their clinical training from in and around Kandy. They are: General Hospital Kandy(Teaching) and other hospitals are from Gampola and, Mawanella. Further, the establishment of Hindagala Community Health Project (HCHP) in 1964 due to the efforts of former Professor of Community Medicine, Professor Malcolm Fernando, which was then considered a ‘field laboratory’ provided much needed excellent public health exposure to the 3rd and 4th year medical undergraduates until 2004. The health divisions of Hindagala and Doluwa together with the academic staff members and the area Medical Officer of Health (MOH) continue to provide excellent public health field exposure to the medical students.

Contributions to the other Universities

The Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya has been in the forefront in discharging its duties beyond the boundaries of the University of Peradeniya, to other medical faculties of other universities of our country, thus obliging the national needs.

The Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya has produced two pioneering deans – Prof T W Wikramanayake (Former professor of Biochemistry, Peradeniya) and Prof Malkanthi Chandrasekera (an alumnus, Professor of Anatomy), Faculties of Medicine at Galle and Anuradhapura respectively.

Further, there have been a number of past deans of other faculties of medicine who were alumni of Peradeniya. Prof Dulitha Fernando – former Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, Prof Jayantha Jayawardana – former Dean of Faculty of Medical Sciences, Jayewardenepura, Prof Gervin Samarawickrama –(later became the Vice Chancellor of University of Ruhuna), Prof P L Ariyananda, Prof Thilak Weerasooriya – all past Deans of Faculty of Medicine, Karapitiya and Prof S V Parameshwaran – former Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Jaffna.

Currently, there are three deans of faculties of medicine who are alumni of Peradeniya. Prof Rohan Jayasekera (Colombo) Dr Gamini Buthpitiya (Peradeniya) and Prof K Sivapalan (Jaffna).

Prof Malini Udupihille (former Professor of Physiology & former Dean, Peradeniya) is currently the Acting Dean of Faculty of Medical and Allied Sciences, Saliyapura(Anuradhapura)

Continued tomorrow...

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