I was Proud to be a Doctor from the Colombo Medical Faculty
Posted on April 27th, 2010

Dr Lalith Perera

This is neither a confession nor redemption. But at least telling the truth that was suppressed in my mind for a long time might put me at ease. I don’t know how to begin this article. Anyhow, I try to follow my memory lane. By writing this letter, I know my colleagues would hate me and denounce me as a traitor. I will be subjected to a long witch hunt.  But I hope one day they would understand me and realize the point that I tried to highlight in here.

 I was astonished when I came to know that I was selected to the Faculty of Medicine Colombo and the day I came to the Medical Faculty I felt like a king. We lookdown upon the Medical Graduates from Peradeniya , Ruhuna and Jaffna because we were the best. We were the cream. We were very much proud of ourselves.

 I still remember when the Private Medical Collage issue came in mid Eighties we openly protested. I recall one incident when some students from the PMC came for a practical session at the Colombo Faculty; we ragged them and humiliated them.  We organized meetings to educate our fellow students. Along with some of our Medical students (  Balasooriya , A.M Jayasiri , Prasanna Gunasena etc) we launched a poster campaigning against the PMC.

 In 1996, the AMP (Assistant Medical Practitioners) matter emerged and we protested them. I encouraged some of my batch mates to continue the protest and we organized some strikes.

 After some years, the Foreign Medical Graduates from USSR, Bulgaria, and Cuba came to Sri Lanka and started practicing as doctors. Again, we made a big protest to safeguard the Medicine in Sri Lanka. In 1997, I fully supported a poster camping against Foreign Medical Graduates.

 Inside us, there was a rejection and disregard for the doctors who were not originally from the Colombo Medical Faculty. We considered them as inefficient and practitioners without high-quality knowledge.

 In 2005, I went to USA and England and had the opportunity to visit some hospitals. Also I visited some Universities and exchanged ideas. Gradually I started questioning my self about our supreme position as the Doctor from the Colombo Medical Faculty.  Are we the best? Or whether we were   in a deception for a long time believing that we were the best and rest of others were buffoons.

 My exposure to the outside world told me that we were living in a false dream for many years.  I realized that there are other educational institutions much better and far advanced than us.

 Recently I came to know that according to the international ranking the position of the University of Colombo has drastically gone down and it plays below 500 th rank . In the Asian university, ranking The University of Colombo is the last. Over the past few decades, our Medical Faculties have not contributed significant international research or publications. None of our Sri Lnakan professors were recognized in the international medical field. But in the other hand the Universities and   in India, Nepal, Bangladesh had made remarkable impacts. Their university professors are invited to the international forums and they contribute a lot.

 In UK I met a Sri Lankan Doctor who had passed out from the PMC Ragama and later migrated to England. He works as a Consultant Anesthetist in a prestigious Hospital in the United Kingdom. In the USA, I met a Doctor who had a Russian degree now serving as an associate Professor in Microbiology in one of the top Universities in Los Angeles. For many years, we fought with these people and chased them from our health system. Now they are doing extremely well in other countries giving their knowledge and skills to other people.

 Now I have a guilty feeling that we blocked these people serving the Sri Lankans. Although we said that, we wanted to protect the free education and the health system of Sri Lanka most of my collages (including me) are much focused on private practice rather than the health system or the interests of the average Sri Lankans.  This may be harsh but it is the truth. Most of my colleagues would say yes to this fact if they were questioned by their conscience.

 Why we behaved in a superior mentality? Because we were not exposed to the outside world. All these years we were living like frogs in a deep well without seeing the outer world. We thought that we were the best, we disregarded other graduates and but finally I realized that we were wrong.

 We fought AMP s disregarding their prolong service (over 125 years) to the public. When I was working in peripheral hospitals I have met skilled assistant medical practitioners, but I was unwilling to admire them may be due to my high ego.

 Recently I did a small study, medical negligence in Sri Lanka starting from Priyani Soysa vs Arsakularatne case, the death of Granville Rodrigo, the death of Prabath Manawasinge etc. Shockingly I found that the most of the accused were local graduates predominantly from my Alma Mater. 

 Why our universities became more and more inefficient? I blame the university mafia that ruined the system. The university authorities were not interested in recruiting the best students as lecturers and train them as future professors. They gave priority to the family members, relatives and family friends. Finally, a bunch of clowns became top people in various departments and they did not do any intellectual work.   

 Our superior mentality made us dormant; we did not do any internationally identifiable research, any valuable publication or discovery. So we are lower than the universities in Africa.

 I hope my colleagues and the present young generation would understand my point. Before denouncing me or criticizing me, I urge you to think what I have experienced. Still we are not too late if we truly work for the science leaving our ego issues apart we can win.


17 Responses to “I was Proud to be a Doctor from the Colombo Medical Faculty”

  1. sarathk Says:

    More than 100% agree. Similar situation could be find in this western country where I am living with regards to the Sri Lankan Engineers who passed out from Sri Lankan Universities (specially from Moratuwa). It is not an easy task for them to get an engineering job unless otherwise they are technically savvy. Even though they have the engineering degree certificate most of them are practically blunt and lost their knowledge acquired from the university. It is not only a problem of our universities (Universities also responsible) but also attitude and lack of desire to be a real engineer. Universities provide the basic understanding and open the path for the persons who wants to go their desired route. But after obtaining their Degree certificate most graduates think “now I am a Doctor or Engineer (or whatever your degree) and I am a big man” . When they get out of the country they will find out who they are.


    I agree 100% with the writer and sarathk. While it is the person who must pursue excellence, it is the responsibility of the University to continue in its path of continuous development. Recognise the best for the job and not recruit only friends and relatives. Good Luck!

  3. drjagathv Says:

    We are still proud to be graduates from the Peradeniya Medical School and we are proud to be Postgraduate trainees from the University of Colombo. We never looked down upon other people and we are proud to be serving the people of this nation with all those difficulties which we face in our day to day work and regardless of minimum facilities available to us in the universities and hospitals, also having seen some of the excellent institutions of postgraduate education in many other countries. We are satisfied that we continue to save lives and alleviate the suffering of our people.
    In the mean time we agree that University education in Sri Lenka needs to be reformed.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    I went into the Net & looked up the now famous Medical System in Cuba. Why is it widely regarded as possibly the best from the developing countries ? For one thing, the course in Medicine there, as described by a foreign student, is rigorous to say the least. They have to be students with only bare necessities only being provided, with shared facilities, and virtually no communication with the outer world is allowed. The watchword for a doctor is SERVICE to the people, and not to be regarded as a lucrative career – average earnings of a Cuban doctor is less than $20 per month. Most Lankans look to the western value system for guidance (consciously or unconsciously), and regard the western values & trappings as essential to the Image of Success. Thus, even the bad values of the west are absorbed & imitated blindly. Therefore the ragging, the ego based ways of looking at alternative medical personnel, etc. It is not too late to shed the dark side that has attached itself to Medical training – after all, it is only in 1948 that Lanka got Independence from some 500 yrs of Colonial Rule, and we should not be too hard on ourselves for blindly imitating the Colonists.
    Where Colonists have provided some good systems, we should absorb those & throw away the rest.
    We Lankans are very resourceful & can devise our own ways to overcome these problems.
    However, hiring family members or friends to jobs is a Lankan weakness which should be overcome for the greater good of the country. But, if the best person for the job is ones family member, so be it !

  5. Chintha Says:

    It is customery in SL to look down upon people who are not selected to Engineering or Medicine as not so bright. When you look in broader view about only 2-3% of a years student get selected to thses faculties. It is not about bieng bright or not ,it is all about LACK of opertunity. We urgently need to create more opertunity to students to get higher education in fields that has demand for jobs both within SL and outside. Now you have realised the mistake you did. But still the same mistake keeps on repeating. By the way I believe in Moratuwa uni ,still the best students are employeed as lecturers.

  6. Jagath Says:

    Bravely and clearly said. If you analyse the genetics of academics in any medical faculty in Sri Lanka, you will find that there is an autosomal dominant inheritance! This is more so in Colombo but is certainly true for Ragama and Peradeniya as well. They have made it a family culture and still appear to think that they are so smart. What these families have done? Nothing but earning money through private practice throughout the day(except for few who can’t even do that). They have not contributed to the upliftment of medical education or research. At the end of the day, the quality of the medical education suffers and we go to hell as a country.

  7. wijesiri1 Says:

    I agree with most of the content, my observations are
    There are several reasons for our Colombo Medical Faculty and other universities to go down in ranking.
    1) There is no mechanism to encourage/appreciate or recognise the staff members who are doing international level research or more importantly who are guiding their students to acquire good research skills.
    2) Therefore lectures would be more comfortable in doing one lecture per term and then go to the private practice.
    3) There is no mechanism in our universities to accommodate students’ feedback in lectures’ promotions, if we had they would have done so much productive work rather than always undermining bright students.
    4) There is not appraisal system to see what lectures are doing, no accountability in research or teaching, no targets and no critical analysis.
    5) Funding for departments are not based on the output, if the university decides to give only essential funding as co- funding and extra amount according to their research and training output, most of these lectures will suddenly be awake!!!!!!!!
    6) Most of our senior academic do not like to see their junior having a better research career. They want their junior to perform less than these seniors thorough out their lives and if they try to bypass the seniors the maximum return is guaranteed. So junior staff would prefer to be inactive and just spend their time rather than creating problems for themselves.
    7) If some academics try to establish collaboration others will find an administrative loophole to stop that progress. We need to make so radical administrative changes if we want our universities to expand collaborative research projects.

  8. ROHANA Says:

    I read your Dr Lalith’s article with interest.
    Why he feel regret about certin incidents in the past. Because he is a kind hearted man.
    However, I cann’t agree with the reasons or answere he has found.
    It is true that , status of our universities have gone down. We have to find out Why? It is good to start a dialogue on this.
    I am now thinking about alternative education. Lot of people with intelectual powers are left out of the mainstream education system. In our country , there is no way of restarting or continuing the education for those who missed the chances with being in the mainstream.
    Their creative works are being neglected.
    One good example is Niranjan weerakoon. He is a BSc graduate but he made several inventions. He is the first one to develop the technology to produce petrol fron polythene in our country several years ago.
    Most of the scientists who made inventions were not from mainstream. EX- Albert Eiensten couldn’t enter university. With very difficulty, he found a job as a clerk. He wrote most of his Hypotheses while working as a clerk.
    Michel parade was a lab assistant. But the scientific community and the government of those countries have recognised those works.
    We need to have a continous and life long education system allowing to compensate missed opportunities. However that shuld not be a money making buisness and should not allow the atleast nominal free education system to collapse.
    I am happy if this dialogue continue.

  9. Ranjan Says:

    Very interesting article exposing actual facts and true situation in medical community in Sri Lanka. Also, I respect to the writer who is from Colombo Medical Faculty to express the truth nothing but the truth. The writer is 100% correct saying that Sri Lankan medos are like “frogs in the well” . I suggest drjagathv to address the issues of discriminating and bullying other faculties including PMC, AMPs, overseas medical grads, allied health students who were recently denied hospital based clinical training etc. Also, I strongly believe that Sri Lanka should change the existing unproductive uni selection system (specially for medicine) if we need to produce “better doctors” and better health outcomes. The medicos should understand that they are not the smartest group because most of them have come with LOWER A/L marks with the benefit of district basis system which denies opportunities from many other bright students from Colombo, Galle, Jaffna etc.
    Like in other developed countries(eg US, Australia, UK ) I think, ‘graduate medical’ program is very suitable for Sri Lanka as well because this system has opened the doors for ‘dedicated’ graduates from other disciplines such as Nursing, Physio, Science, Eng, Arts, Commerce or what ever, for entering to medical schools. It would change this cowboy style attitude.

  10. NRdeS Says:

    I am very glad that Lalith has had the courage to speak out like this. I’m also a product of the Colombo Medical Faculty and like Lalith, I’ve had the opportunity to work in other countries, and see how the health system operates outside our own little “well”. As I see it, there are two big issues here.

    Sri Lanka has a pretty good health system, and the medical profession has certainly contributed to this in no small way, but if we are to go much further, we need to realise that our country must have a much more ‘inclusive’ system than many doctors of the sort that Lalith refers to, seem to want. Too many medical students and young graduates feel threatened by the changes that must happen in our health system as our country develops. They don’t seem to realise that a good health system cannot be run by medics alone – and that better trained nurses, laboratory technologists, therapists of all sorts, etc, will strengthen the system in the long run. Yes, there will be changes in the existing pecking order, and yes, it may be uncomfortable at times, but change is never easy.

    The other issue is the poor performance of the university system as a whole, and the medical faculties in particular. One of the reasons why we have such a poor research record is the lack of incentives – once lecturers are confirmed in service after obtaining a PG degree, there is very little that can be done to get rid of an under-performing academic staff member. Permanent tenure should be given much more stringently than at present. But at the same time, academics need to be paid better salaries – expecting to retain the best in the system on the current level of pay is to live in a fool’s paradise (aka Sri Lanka!)

  11. nilwala Says:

    The writer should be commended for his honesty. and for bringing one of the sad problems of our University system into the open.
    The Colombo Medical Faculty used to be one of the best in the South Asian region and its graduates were comparable with the best in the UK and USA….this was all of 50years ago. What has happened since? And who created and cultivated thia class consciousness that led to the students there considering themselves to be the ‘creme de la crème’? It has a lot to do with the Faculty staff itself who should have been the ones to mentor and guide these students to get off their high horse, but instead, some of the protests against the PMC were fueled by some staff who were politicians. It is very sad for those of us who were once associated with the Colombo University to see that it has tumbled in the rankings.
    And yet, the University of Moratuwa with it core Engineering expertise has risen to new heights, which demonstrates the native capabilities of the Lankan students. Hopefully they will not get swollen headed in the way of the Colombo Med. Fac., for if they do they will fall just as the latter has done. What is it that creates this false pride that exalts oneself and denigrates others in order to keep oneself in that self-created position of being better than the rest? The competitive AL exams are part of the problem. Students do not seem to realize that just a few marks here and there are what may decide who enters the University and who does not. Unfortunately, the competitiveness they developed seems to last through the lifetimes of the careers of these students. The worst fall-out from this is an inability to work as a team. It is a manifestation of the “I syndrome” that seems so prevalent in Sri Lanka today. When these students go abroad they do learn a few lessons in humility, but unfortunately many on their return lapse into the same old elitism. I should add that Harvard and other Ivy League Universities in the USA and Oxford and Cambridge in the UK are also guilty of fostering elitism. Gone are the days when intellectual brilliance was tempered with humility and compassion. Alas! it is perhaps just another sign of the times we live in….

  12. 116baker Says:

    Hats off to the writer,well said Nilwala,Its the reality,I’m a graduate from former USSR,still working in Sri Lanka,soon will be leaving .I and many of my colleagues were victims of a silent harassment which took place write along the carrier in Sri Lanka.I got selected to medical college in 1986,surprisingly the letter came from UGC stating that I have been posted to Jaffna medical faulty,despite my medium was sinhalese,and schooling and residency was trough out in Colombo, no need to say about my inability even to converse well in Tamil .I and 3 of others from Royal college and Ananda college all were posted to Jaffna,only reason was our birth mistake of being non sinhalese and carrying names which are not sinhalese. Though later it was rectified by the UGC after a colossal struggle for over 6 months,we (all 4 of us ) had to undergo tremendous mental agony.I then took the offer of a schol to USSR.
    In return during the internship,then after during the carrier we(the so called FG’s) were looked upon like inferior quality products forgetting that we are from the same countryin the same busness,even the consultants were humiliating us.Later I realized that the mistake is not on them its the institute which they were produced from lacked moral and attitude training.The local graduates(not all but many) lacked the quality of respecting and accepting other graduates. They had/have a superiority complex,even many consultants too.
    I saw a clear deference among the NCMC(PMC) graduates they had many good qualities which lacked amongst the state graduates .
    I humbly respect the above writer,Its high time to realize our weaknesses and change things, better later than never.In the country were I’m planning to work foreign graduates are called IMG’s(International Medical Graduates). There’s no discrimination what so ever once you have achieved to get the council license to practice.
    What I feel lacking mostly in Sri Lankan graduate courses are ,as the writer says is exposure to the international arena,there’s no student exchange programs,electives are not done in foreign countries, lacking knowledge and training in IT and other social get-along training,ethics ,conduct,doctor patient,doctor peer relationships,any many more which experts will come up with.
    Its high time to review and correct this ,get the help from foreign countries,there are well reputed professional bodies who evaluate audit and recommend amendments to universities.Get on going continues evaluating and training of out puts(graduates) if not we will be seeing more doctor mudalali’s fighting and riving each other for private practice.
    At last,I’m proud that some one has started to realize the mistakes. Again I thank the writer.Please do something after all state owned universities are our national heritage.

    Baker 116

  13. longus Says:

    I must say Hon.Lalith has enlightened himself to the realities of the world….finally.But on the other hand I didn’t have the superiority complex as Lalith confesses of himself having.Infact I had a great deal of dissappointment over our sub-standard Faculty staff which is amply evident in the fact that I had to re-sit most of the exams conducted by them!

    But one thing about Sri Lankan medical graduates is clear.(I’m not talking about one particular Faculty)We are capable of handling any situation at any kind of advanced hospital in the West.What they have is advanced technology in every little thing they do.And they are good talkers!We are good workers!I was surprised how incompetant and hesitant the Canadian doctors are to undertake even the simplest of procedures which are like bread and butter for our doctors.They would have hundred and one absurd regulations and precautions and hi-tech equipment.That stops there.Our doctors are brave and confidant.They take enough risks in Sri Lanka to save lives under trying circumstances.

    But I won’t disagree with Lalith in his statement that the Universities in Sri Lanka are no longer the breeding grounds of research and new inventions.(What is research anyway,Machang?!)They are guided by parasitic doderers and stinky scavengers who pose as staff.

    Thawa liyapan Machang!

    Longus Singh
    (The Master of Reality)

  14. Ranjan Says:

    “They are good talkers ! we are good workers” ? says another “Frog-in- the- well”

  15. longus Says:

    Ranjan,you must be still in the well;it’s high time that you got out of it! I pity for you on your plight,honestly,for you seem to be suffering from the post-colonial hang-over called “Beri-Beri”. You can see the White Masters in the West as the “ultimate supreme human being”,and we(your fellow countrymen), as a species with “intellectual impediment”.

    If that’s the case you’d better take the necessary remedial measures.

    Another point in Lalith’s letter says,that he is regretting the part he played in the campaign against the Private Medical College in the 80’s. Let me remind him that whatever he did in history was done! There’s no turning back time. At that time you did what you thought was right,so don’t regret it now. In that case you can regret about the “Bus Stop” you brought inside the Blom after a good drink! Can you put that bus-stop back in place now?

  16. Lakmaal Says:

    Generations old saying goes as…when you are in Rome act as a roman…
    My personal assumption is that what happens to most of us, in short and sweet. Most of our fellow medical students/colleagues become rebellious and come into understanding that ’Medicine’ was founded in SL, and they have a traditional responsibility to preserve it, once they get admissions. No other medical institution in the world is capable of keeping up with so called high standards that existed long long ago. But is that the reality now?

    My point is, not to point a finger or be a judge who is the best, rather to point out its not the university that you attend that makes you a better doctor in life but the personality, humanity, hard work and intelligence of the individual. None of us are born a doctor but we are groomed during course of time.

    So when some of us, tag themselves as superior than others, just because they attended Colombo medical college or the Peradeniya medical college doesn’t it makes you think for a second of them, as the frogs in the well who thinks of their standards are highest standards?

    The hypocrisy is once you leave the medical college, our doctors who get exposed to the world, and realizes how much behind we are as a nation in the health sector, providing quality health care, and embraces the foreign exposure. It’s actually understandable but the worst part is some of them get free education from the ordinary tax payers and migrate because of the better living standards. Aren’t those the same doctors who once protested against foreign graduates, saying they have low educational standards than the locals?

    I agree standard should be maintained, there is no doubt about that fact. And it up to authorities, not to the medical students who doesn’t even knows the exact dept where our own health care, stand against the world. We are a developing nation, each passing day taking step towards 3ed world nation. And we brag about our standards?

    On the other hand all those foreign medical graduates who spend a fortune, learning important key stones such as ‘patient well being, awareness and patient education’, throws down the memory lane and become money making doctors. As a lot you complain that you being treated unequal, given hard time, alienated but have you really tried to stand out and show the difference and make a difference or with time do you also become one of them?

    My point is whether you are local or foreign educated you wined up in the same old road, pointing finger at each other, no matter how hard you try to deny this fact. So why don’t we all get together the make the best for better tomorrow in Sri Lankan health care for at least for our grand grand children to come. I totally agree with the author, this would mean nothing to most, but hope if each one of us start standing up for the truth one day we will be heard…

  17. chaturi mudalige Says:

    I am a Colombo Medical graduate. I have been in US health care system for over 8 years now with 5 years in training. From what I have seen, Sri Lankan medical graduates, whether they are from Colombo or another medical faculties do extremely well, in exams and in practise. They are well respected and several are well known in their fields.
    USMLE, and Board exams on their respective fields are relatively easy for our graduates.Several of my batch mates who came to US passes USMLE with scores over 90th percentile,right after Medical school final exam.
    Being an average medical student from Colombo medical faculty, I can safely say that we received a comprehensive and strong education.
    Let’s keep out attitudes to ourselves and not blame our schools for it.I don’t believe all Colombo medical graduates think that they are better than other medical graduates in the country.
    It is true that we do not have the oppotunity for reseach as much as countries with more resources. But that does not make our education inferior.
    Average US physician pays about $1000/ per month for 30 years if you had to take loans to pay for your education.Please don’t forget that you received free education. It would be nice if you can at least be grateful for that.

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