Peradeniya Medical School Alumni Association-UK (PeMSAA-UK) Management Committee, its members, friends, colleagues and past students around the globe are saddened by the loss of our popular teacher and the former Head of Department of Anatomy, the Faculty of the Medicine, Professor Eugene Wickramanayake.
I am sure many alumni would remember Prof Wickramanayake as a smartly dressed lady walking around the Anatomy block appearing to be fierce. However she was one of those most supportive, caring and empathetic motherly figures in the pre-clinical blocks. She was an active participants and a brilliant debater during conferences and meetings. The demise of our beloved teacher,
colleague and friend is an irreplaceable loss to all of us.
The PeMSAA-UK extends their sincere condolences to her family and friends
PeMSAA-UK Management Committee
A Tribute to Prof. Eugene Wickramanayake
Professor Eugene Wickramanayake, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine,
University of Peradeniya passed away recently at the age of 87
She comes from a medical family, with a brother and sister also in the same profession. She studied at Girl’s High School, Kandy where she excelled in her studies, winning all the prizes. She was the first female student to enter the Medical Faculty from the Central Province. She met her future husband the late Prof Tommy Wickramanayake when she was a medical student at the Medical Faculty Colombo where Tommy was a lecturer and the hostel warden. They were married in 1959 and had three sons, all of whom have excelled in their chosen fields.
When we entered the Peradeniya Medical School, she was a lecturer in the Department of Anatomy. She was known popularly as Mrs. Wicks then. This later changed to a more affectionate “Timmy” probably to rhyme with “Tommy” as her husband was known. We could almost feel her coming, along the outside corridor of the Anatomy block. As she entered, we all looked as keen and studious as we could to avoid been questioned. Her signatures and her rapid fire of questions frightened many a medical student. She had a sharp mind and an observant eye. Nothing that happened in the Anatomy Block or even outside escaped her. She knew all the budding romances that started in those early years. She always knew who worked in the block and who did not, and woe betide those who got noted for shirking! But in spite of her fierce persona, she was always fair and was willing to explain if we asked for help.
We got to know Eugene even more when we joined the Department of Anatomy as assistant lecturers. She helped all the junior academic staff in many ways, guiding us and sometime shielding us from the wrath of the Head of Department.
She was the first Sri Lankan doctor to train formally in Human Genetics, completing a PhD in Genetics at the University of Glasgow. She returned to Sri Lanka in 1968. We remember how she got us to “volunteer” to give her buccal mucosa swabs to set up her laboratory for Barr body testing. Even before Genetics was accepted as a topic in the curriculum, Eugene used to introduce the subject whenever possible and whet the appetite of the young minds. Later on, she started an Introductory Course in Genetics for undergraduates. She participated in the Fourth International Congress of Human Genetics in Paris in 1971 where she presented a paper. She was instrumental in setting up a Cytogenetics laboratory, which was equipped with a grant from the WHO. A donation of a fluorescent microscope from the Welcome Trust helped to setup techniques of Population Genetics.
One of her special interests was the genetics of the Veddas. Together with colleagues from the University of Peradeniya comprising Dr. T.W. Wickramanayake (Nutrition) and Dr. Sri Pathmanathan (Dentistry), she initiated a longitudinal study of the Uva Bintenna Veddas in 1971. They were joined by Dr. S.B. Ellepola, Consultant Pathologist at Badulla who was already into the study of Genetics of the Veddas.
Prof. Wickramanayake then setup the second phase of the longitudinal study of the Uva Bintenne Veddas from 1993-1996 with a University Grant using trained demonstrators, technicians, and late Dr Malkanthi Chandrasekera, who later became the Professor of Anatomy at Peradeniya Medical School.
Noting that there was very little known about male infertility in Sri Lanka Prof. Eugene Wickramanayake did pioneering research on male infertility on a WHO grant and participated in an Andrology Workshop in Singapore.
Following the footsteps of Prof Jayawardene in the teaching of Topographical Anatomy, Prof.Eugene Wickramanayake set up introductory courses in Topographical Anatomy and Human Biology. These were later incorporated into the “Man in Health and Disease” course.
She and her late husband Professor Tommy Wickramanayake were founder members of the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka (NSSL), in which she was an active member.
Between 1987 and 1998, she represented the Faculty in the Senate Research and Higher Degrees Committee, which was given the task of overseeing the accountability of research grants. One of the outcomes of her efforts was the establishment of the Annual Research Sessions at the Faculty. As the chairperson of the Faculty Research and Higher Degrees Committee, she organised the first of these sessions in 1992. She was the President of the Kandy Society of Medicine (KSM) and was awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka for her role as an examiner with the Primary Fellowship Examination of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Sri Lankan Master of Surgery Examination.
She was a humble and an unassuming person who after retirement regularly travelled by bus. She would patiently wait in hospital clinic queues without disclosing who she was as she did not want to be treated differently. She also addressed most people by the phrase ‘child’!
She will be missed by all those who have come under her influence. PeMSAA-UK would like to extend its deepest sympathies to her family and friends.
Prof Ram Swaminathan & Dr Padma Samarawickrama