We are forever grateful for our beloved teachers

Prof. Raja Bandaranayake Tribute

Prof. Raja Bandaranayake

I was shocked to hear of the passing of Prof. Raja Bandaranayake, an icon in the Medical spheres of Anatomy & Medical Education both in Sri Lanka and of International renown in Australia and New Zealand

Following his term as Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Medical Education at the Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya, Ceylon, he emigrated to Australia, where he was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and the President of the Australian and NZ Association of Medical Education and was awarded the Fred Katz Memorial Medal for his achievements in 1991. We were looking forward to seeing him in the UK this year, as his trips to Oberammergau had been cancelled due to COVID in 2020/2022.

His email at Christmas mentioned that he was unable to type or write and would prefer to chat, which sadly was not to be. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Motor Neurone Disease a few months ago, to which he succumbed on the 18th of January.

I owe my interest in Anatomy and Clinical Medicine to his introduction and lectures - a teacher par excellence, and I am proud that I had the privilege to be taught be him, as a ‘Fresher’ in the first year of Medical School. He was then Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at the Peradeniya Medical Faculty alongside Prof. ‘Jacko’ Jayatilleke and Mrs Eugene (‘Timmy’) Wickramanayake, and more familiarly known as ‘Banda’! One could not have wished for a better teacher to initiate us into coping with the rigorous medical training in the ensuing 5 yrs. His anatomical dissections were meticulous and thorough, diagrams perfect, thus inspiring interest in a difficult field. The Mnemonics were many and learned with great humour! By integrating theory into clinical situations, Anatomy turned into an enjoyable subject, and helped to dismiss the anxieties at Examination Practicals & Vivas.

He was a gentle giant walking the corridors of the Medical School at Peradeniya, a superb educator and clinical anatomist, a compassionate counsellor, role model and friend. His many talents and interests included sports, travel, literature, and history, exemplified by the books he has written i.e. ‘The Integrated Medical Curriculum’ , ‘Betwixt Isles’ etc. He was a pioneer in mastering the Electron Microscope when it first arrived and was ever ready to take up anything innovative. It even extended to involving students in helping organise fundraisers along with his wife Chandrani & other Faculty members.

One of my first experiences of this was when he roped me in to design and paint the entrance decor to the Fundraising Stall at the “Esala Mela,” held during the Annual Perahera, a far cry from Anatomy, albeit for a worthy cause! He advocated that the ‘Art of Medicine’ should be integrated with the ‘Science of Medicine’ thereby applying theory to practice, thus improving diagnostics, clinical skills, communication, and patient care. (a much-needed outlook even for today!)

He was one of the pioneers in Medical Education in Sri Lanka, attached to the Medical Education Unit of the Medical Faculty. He was a member of the team which conducted teacher training programmes for medical teachers from the SE Asia region. After he emigrated to Australia, he was based at the School of Medical Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney. From this base, he acted as a Consultant in Medical Education to countries in the Asia Pacific region.

As a unique Medical Educator, he believed ‘Education is for Life’ and many are the students who have benefitted and are a lasting testimony to his efforts. He was a person who certainly influenced and encouraged me in continuing with my chosen career for which I shall be ever grateful. I am sure my sentiments will be shared by many in the words of the following poem:

“As We Look Back”
As we look back over time, we find ourselves wondering
Did we remember to thank you enough for all you have done for us?
For all the times you were by our sides to help and support us
To celebrate our successes, to understand our problems and accept our defeats?
Or, for teaching us by your example, the value of hard work, good judgement, courage, and integrity?
And for the simple things like laughter, smiles and times shared?
If we have forgotten to show our gratitude enough for all that you did, we are thanking you now
And we are hoping you knew all along how much it all meant to us

My heartfelt sympathies to his wife Chandrani, and children Rohan, Ruveni and Roshini and their families.
May his soul rest in peace.

Dr. Christine Wirasinha (UK)




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