Condolences message to be read on behalf of PeMSAA-UK: Peradeniya Medical School Alumni Association-UK (PeMSAA-UK) Executive Committee and its members are solemnly saddened by the loss of our respected and popular teacher, former Dean of the Peradeniya Medical School, Vice Chancellor of University of Peradeniya and the Director of Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. Professor Panabokke was a trusted ally of Medicine whilst in service and following retirement and its Alumni around the globe.
It was an honor and privilege for us to deliver a Felicitation Citation for Professor Panabokke during his lifetime at the PeMSAA-UK International
Academic Conference held in June 2018.
The demise of our beloved teacher, colleague and friend is an irreplaceable loss. The PeMSAA-UK extends their sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Our tributes conclude with a quote from the great Mahatma Gandhi;
"There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in our hearts."
Tribute to late, Professor Ralph Panabokke
Professor Panabokke is one of my(our) heroes in medicine, pathology, and administration. He was among the greatest and fair-minded teachers we had at the faculty of medicine, Peradeniya.
He held many important positions; Professor and the Head of Pathology; Consultant Pathologist at Pathology Lab, Teaching Hospital Peradeniya; Dean Peradeniya medical school; Vice Chancellor, university of Peradeniya; and the Director Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. He was instrumental in getting approvals and funding to establish the teaching hospital, Peradeniya; a great asset to the faculty of medicine.
He was one of the best academics, administrator, clinician, and most importantly, an A+ teacher who positively impacted on his students and colleagues, over four decades. He was honest and unbiased, never did favours or expected rewards, and had a fruitful longer-term vision. He dedicated his life to teaching and welfare and the success of his students. He didn’t bow to pressure, never tolerated irregularities, or get involved with party politics. We couldn’t have expected anything more from him. He was the best if not one of the best role models.
As a faculty member in late 1970s', I closely worked with dean, Professor Panabokke on several issues pertinent to the development of the curriculum and faculty organization. He was one of the few senior teachers who fully supported my persistence for seeking changes in the faculty, such as modes of teaching, the modernizing of the curricula, etc., to bring it to a higher level. One that I vividly remember is, my proposal to introduce a formal “research module” into the medical student curriculum. Despite objections by many senior faculty members, he and professors Tommy Wikramanayake and PAJ Perera, strongly supported me to make that happen.
Professor Panabokke formally approved my leave of absence from the university and facilitated to obtain a formal letter of release from the department of health from the DHS, Dr. Mahalinga Fernando, allowing me to proceed to U.K. for postgraduate training in “clinical endocrinology.” According to his letter of approval in 1979 (confirmed by the ministry of health letter), I was the first Sri Lankan physician (trainee), officially sent abroad for “postgraduate training in endocrinology.” This is at a time, endocrinology was a subject, not taught separately or even heard of in Sri Lanka; but Professor Panabokke had the Vision for the Future.
The vision, commitment, enthusiasm, and the non-political, straightforward nature of Professor Panabokke and other “giants” (our respected teachers), helped us to become what we are today. More importantly, he and other great teachers paved the path to success of the medical faculty in Peradeniya, facilitating thousands to graduates to serve the globe.
The current and future faculty members, deans and vice chancellors in Sri Lanka should take him as a role model and follow the unique compassionate leadership style, untiring work, and excellent habits. Moreover, practice of nurturing and the thoughtful ways of our cherished teachers who dedicated their time and effort to foster students and the faculty, to advance their careers is amazing and unforgettable.
Professor Panabokke was a highly respected true gentleman, one of the best teachers we had, and the best role model, I came across. Our deepest sympathy to the family for the loss of this great person who was admired by many. God bless late professor Panabokke; may he attain the Supreme Nibbāna.
Prof Sunil J. Wimalawansa
Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology & Nutrition/USA
[a former medical student at the faculty of medicine (1970/75) and a lecturer (1978/80)]
Professor Ralph Gemunu Panabokke MD (Ceylon), PhD(Lond), FRCPath(Lond) , FCCS(SL) DSc (Peradeniya) DSc (Ruhuna) MBBS (Cey)
Professor Panabokke was my teacher, guru, mentor, trainer. Loyalty, honesty, strength of character, denependability, meticulous, methodical, punctual were hallmarks of this colossus of pathology. He appeared to have a tough exterior, but beneath lay the kindest of hearts. He was a very understanding man and viewed the problems of others with great sympathy and empathy. He was the epitome of a public servant of yester year - smartly clad, working a full 8 hours, never a minute wasted on idle chatter, a brisk and purposeful walk with his diary and files tucked under his arm.
As a trainer he demanded accurate and meticulous work. His training was tough. As his PhD student, he insisted that I do all the mundane technical work myself. This training stood me good stead later on when I was in UK for further training, and also when I became Head of the laboratory at the Dept of Pathology Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya and the Teaching Hospital Peradeniya. I had to type my PhD thesis myself, which had to be typed six times. (no computers in those days!!!!). To this day I thank him for this rigorous training. Even in his retirement, he maintained an interest in his students. He would always ask me about my academic work and requested copies of my publications, and other interesting articles so that he could continue to learn.
He loved painting. “A picture speaks more than a thousand words” he would say often. He gifted his works of art to the institutions he worked in, and also to his students.
Professor Panabokke was born in 1927, to an aristocratic Kandyan family hailing from Gampola, in the Kandy district.
He was educated at the prestigious school for boys, Trinity College Kandy. His school career was outstanding, where he obtained 1st divisions in all public examinations, and excelled with distinctions, in subjects ranging from Latin through Biology to Physics, Chemistry and Botany.
His undergraduate training was at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. His academic ability blossomed in this institution, where he obtained honours at all examinations, distinctions in pathology, pharmacology and Bacteriology, and won the Loos Gold Medal for Pathology, and the W.H. de Silva scholarship for the 3rd MBBS examination, at which he obtained a first class.
In addition to being an academically oriented person, he was also a sensitive and talented artist with an eye for beauty, colour, and patterns, and inevitably his wise teachers directed him to a career in pathology in the subspecialty of histopathology. He was trained by world famous pathologists, namely Professor W.A.E. Karunratne, and Professor G.H. Cooray in Sri Lanka, and Professor Sir Roy Cameron, and Professor Everson Pearse in London. Having read for a PhD in London the MD Ceylon followed. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of the United Kingdom thereafter.
Following a short stint at Kandy hospital as medical officer in the department of Health, Professor Panabokke joined the University of Ceylon to pursue a career in pathology in the Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine Colombo. He was persuaded by his superiors to take on the challenge of establishing a parallel department in the new medical school at Peradeniya, and thus began his illustrious career at the Peradeniya University. He held the posts of lecturer, senior lecturer, Reader and Associate professor and Professor of Pathology. This is the era where he introduced new technology to the Department of Pathology, and trained a set of dedicated technologists for the University, giving back in full to Sri Lanka, what he had gleaned from his training in London. He introduced new laboratory technology including enzyme histochemistry to the Dept of Pathology.
Professor Panabokke was a keen researcher. His mind was always questioning, and he encouraged his students to investigate new ideas. His scientific and investigative work flourished and thrived in the academic environment of Peradeniya, experimental pathology being his forte. He was awarded a Personal chair in Pathology, on merit, as a result of his outstanding research work. Professor Panabokke was conferred the honorary title of Doctor of Science by both the Universities of Ruhuna and Peradeniya, in recognition of his scientific work
He was the recipient of many awards and prestigious scholarships throughout his career, including the Nuffield Fellowship, WHO fellowship, and Senior Commonwealth Fellowship. He was also a Visiting Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore.. He also served on numerous national committees in an advisory capacity.
Professor Panabokke was an administrator par excellence. He has the unique distinction of holding all the administrative posts of one and the same University, namely, Head of Deparment of Pathology, Dean of the Faculty of Medical, Dental and Veterinary Sciences, Vice Chancellor and Chairman of the Council, and finally Chancellor, all of the University of Peradeniya.
As Dean of the faculty of Medicine Peradeniya, he played a major role in obtaining the teaching hospital Peradeniya (built on a JAICA project from the Government of Japan) for the Peradeniya Medical faculty This is singularly unique for a medical school.
Professor R.G. Panabokke was the director of Postgraduate Institute of Medicine Colombo,(PGIM) from 1989 – 1996. When he donned the mantle of this prestigious and responsible post, he carried with him a wealth of wisdom, experience and insight, acquired during a very illustrious academic and administrative career, spanning over 30 years. Professor Panabokkes association with the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine,University of Colombo, commenced while at Peradeniya. He first served as the faculty representative of the board of study in Pathology, and later became the chairman of the board. During this time he focused his efforts to improve the curriculum and training programmes in pathology. The first recipient of the MD in Pathology awarded by the PGIM, was trained by Professor Panabokke.
A solid foundation for this institution was laid by its pioneers, and Professor Panabokke took it forward from there with characteristic verve. He set in motion a multipronged plan for further development of this great institution. Postgraduate training was streamlined and expanded, with many new training centers being opened both in Colombo and the outstations. Recognizing the need for adequate scientific literature, he expanded the postgraduate library and also helped develop branch libraries in Kandy and Peradeniya. Today the young doctors are reaping the benefits of his foresight.
Being a medical educationist, Professor Panabokke encouraged conducting training workshops and seminars in many specialties. With increasing numbers of specialties, boards of study and trainees and examinations, he recognized the need for a solid administrative set up. The proposal and plans for the new addendum to the old PGIM building were initiated by him. He instilled discipline, the art of meticulous maintenance of records, strict work ethics, and the value of attention to detail, into the administration. Several administrative officers were afforded the opportunity of training abroad on scholarships secured by him. Thus he left behind a duty conscious dedicated and disciplined staff for his successors.
Professor Panabokke was born teacher, and he greatly enjoyed teaching histopathology to the trainees in pathology. Many were the hours he spent travelling to the Faculty of Medicine Karapitiya, to conduct lectures in pathology for the undergraduates. He continued teaching postgraduates while still the Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, and this continued well into retirement when he was working as a consultant pathologist at Asiri hospital, in Colombo, till he left the shores of Sri Lanka.
One of attributes of Professor Panabokke was that he greatly respected his teachers at Trinity College Kandy, Medical Faculty Colombo, and his postgraduate trainers in UK. He spoke of them with appreciation and affection.
Professor Panabokke was retired and living in the United Kingdom with his son and family, pursuing his passion for painting, and also keeping up with scientific reading. Later on he read widely into the philosophy of the Buddha and Abhidhamma.
Whilst we celebrate the life and work of Professor Panabokke, there is a sense of loss of a duty conscious officer– the end of an era
Prof Neelakanthi Ratnatunga
(Professor Panabokke’s student)
Former Professor of Pathology
Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya.
Professor Ralph Panabokke
I am deeply saddened to hear the passing away of our beloved pathology teacher. I was a medical student at Peradeniya from 1971 to 1975 and we had many teachers (lecturers, senior lecturers and professors. all of them were good most were very good and there were exceptional teachers among them. I think almost all Prof Panabokke's students will agree that he belong to the exceptional category. He was very kind and fair to everyone at all times and had no favourites. He was very quiet except when he was giving a lecture in a crystal clear voice filling the whole auditorium. I still remember his histopathology classes and the presentations at weekly CPCs at Kandy hospital Pathology auditorium.
What I learned from him helped me through exams throughout my career and also my practice as a surgeon. Many may wonder how does teachings in pathology help surgical practice. The answer to that is clear understanding in Pathology is one of the three mighty pillars on which surgical knowledge is based on. Prof Panabokke has later become the dean of the faculty and Director of PGIM and has done tremendous service to the country.
He had no political or any other forms of bias and was a true gentleman and a role model for any teacher/ administrator. We all truly respected him and I wished we had few leaders of his calibre to lead the country.
I whole heartedly wish him nibbana.