Department of Anatomy

Faculty of Medicine

History


The Faculty of Medical Dental and Veterinary Sciences
October 1962 – December 1999

The first recruit to the fledgling Faculty (only female in the Sciences with three others in the Arts) by Prof Lester Jayawardene, PhD Physical Anthropology University of Edinburgh with the assurance of postgraduate training towards introducing Genetics in the curriculum. The academic staff consisted of the Professor, Lecturers, Demonstrators from the DHS and the non academic, administrative, technical and attendants.
The “Dissecting Room” was the hub for all student activities including early romantic affiliations. It doubled up as a dance floor for the batch Get- togethers in the early years and till the 80’s as the Examination Hall for the Faculty! Fortunately it was spacious and well ventilated with its windows open. “All windows open” was a constant admonition. Until the student canteen was completed its wide sheltered inner veranda was used for a “tea break” with a “tea boy” in attendance. In later years the Anatomy staff entertained the students for a “tea and bun” on Wednesday afternoons in the same area.
Dissecting Room
For the first batch prepared cadavers had been transported from Colombo accompanied by the most important “staff member” of the dissecting room its “caretaker”. Two new recruits awaited to apprentice under him. Gradually the aura around and the fearful respect for the dissecting room built up, scaring curious lay prying eyes from the outer verandah during the day and courting couples from the inner verandah at dusk. Even the security guards came together to switch on the lights. In later years political appointees to the Department too were hurried out by the same scaring tactics. However with the services a myth had also been created that the dissecting room staff had the concession to imbibe alcohol during working hours. When I arrived at a labour tribunal in the mid 80’s a few minutes late, the caretaker reported for habitual drunken behavior was challenging the tribunal to “come and see” whether work was possible in the dissecting room with all those “gory body parts” without a “drink”. To the amusement of the tribunal I was able to add “in that case I should be reeling in now, as for the last twenty years I have habitually walked the length and breadth of the said dissecting room at least twice during Anatomy practicals. Like the windows the dissecting room doors were also kept wide open during practicals. As I walked the length of the corridor of the Department to reach the dissecting room I could see the students in the middle row of trolleys stiffen and almost hear their whisper “there she’s coming”. The noise level went down and the students were ‘studious”
With the second batch the procedure for registering, preparing, storage and issue of cadavers to students was routine. The sources were unclaimed bodies from the Kandy hospital and executions at Bogambara. The latter provided excellent prosections for the Primary FRCS held in Colombo. “Body donations” was soon established and the donation ceremony ritualised with the Head, technician and “caretaker” in attendance. The coffins were recycled. After dissection by the students osteological specimens were prepared and the remains were individually “bagged” and sent for burial. However “grave digging” for bones cannot be ruled out.
In the mid 80’s the “cadaver register” served as Queens evidence in a murder trial in the UK and its recordings commended. In 1986 Hodgson and Cowman from Scotland Yard traveled to Sri Lanka and established that the accused had not been given a body for research as claimed. “Although in many ways their society is living under Victorian standards, their records were a policemen’s dream. Everything was detailed in longhand on ledgers”.
Cadaver Register
From the beginning teaching was student centered and learning in the dissecting room was encouraged. Prof. Jayawardene was a topographical anatomist of the highest calibre. His spatial exposition of the middle ear cavity and the topography of the thalami still ring in my ears. Lectures, always conducted by Senior staff were restricted to Tissues of the body, Histology, Embryology and Applied Anatomy for clinical relevance. Topographical Anatomy was necessarily studied in regions. Osteology. Radiology and Surface Anatomy could be accommodated in the dissection room. The call to the students was come, dissect, display and learn “touch” not vision key to understanding topography emphasized. The demonstrators preparing for the Primary FRCS ‘revised’ their Anatomy on the prosections of the students and conducted lecture demonstrations in the Tutorial Rooms. All staff participated in the weekly ‘body side’ grading quizzes.
The dissecting room code of behaviour was established early. “Bodies” were sacrosanct. No dissected material allowed on the floor and no photographs. The wash basins were provided with soap, towels and nail brushes (replaced by used tooth brushes in leaner times) for “scrubbing” after dissections. Both males and females were inspected regularly for well trimmed nails (In retrospect the long nails on the little fingers noted in the mid 80’s may have been a signatory of the impending insurrection). Females were forewarned that short skirts would expose their thighs to male “anatomical curiosity”, when they perched on the high dissecting room stools. Loose cotton clothing and attention to personal hygiene was advised.
The student run Anatomical Society under the patronage of the Professor and a Senior Treasurer from the staff played a pivotal role in the life of the Faculty fostering solidarity within each batch and between batches. In the early years it was a role model for the other student union run Faculties moderating behaviour with the increasing undergraduate unrest towards the mid 60’s. The society remained active through both insurrections and was the only society of the University that did not require registration after the second insurrection. The society’s activities were diverse, from commencement lectures to environmental issues. For example in the 80’s the shady grassy slope flanking the entrance to the Faculty was left an eyesore after week-end visitors to the Botanical Gardens using it for their afternoon siesta. Boards carrying the message “No littering By Order A.S” kept litter bugs at bay! 
When the first medical exhibition for the public (first ever in University history1)was planned for 1965 the society lent Rs.5,000 ( a princely sum then) as seed money. Needless to say the ‘dissecting room” exhibits” drew the largest crowds and continued to do so till it was demolished in 2000. (An earlier plan to demolish it in the 90’s to make way for the canteen of the “new” building was resisted tooth and nail. No Anatomy without a “dissecting room”). The “genetics live exhibits” were a pair of identical twins from the batch Karunaratne’s (identical twins in the same field in the same year – another University history first) . A shameful and guilt producing incident at an exhibition too must be recorded. A whole body superficial prosection including the face was an exhibit. Through the throngs in the dissecting room voices were heard saying “there’s our father “. The exhibit was hastily withdrawn.
So it came to be that between the dissecting room and the Senior Treasurer of the Anatomical Society all student activities were under the umbrella of the Department of Anatomy. This is not to belittle the wholehearted support in coordinating curricula and active participation in student activities by the Staff of the Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry with Anatomy constituting the Basic Sciences with annual student staff get to-gethers under the “Banyan Tree” of the Botanical Gardens
Chaperoning female students on the annual batch trips to Sigiriya however remained the prerogative of the only female staff member and “Proctor” husband accompanied by their three sons since the late 60’s The Physiology lecture theatre brain child of late T.W.W. complete with stage and dressing rooms with its easy access and imposing entrance through the lobby of the Department remain the venue for student activities in the Faculty to date. It continued to serve the Kandy Society of Medicine for the weekly Tuesday (P2)talks and Annual Sessions including the Senake Bibile Oration till recently. It should be given pride of place in the Jubilee Celebrations.
Two occasions when anxiety and sadness brought staff and students together must be recorded. The first when Palitha Abeykoon developed tetanus after a rugger accident. The palpable anxiety of the staff was on the question whether he should be removed to Colombo for “better treatment”. Dr L.A.G.Jayasekera demonstrator was on the ready for the move. A sigh of relief when Prof Milroy Paul ordered “don’t move him”. The second involves the tragic death of Michael Babapulle in April 1964. Again the “only female” six months pregnant trudged up the Deiyannewela slope of the hospital to await the arrival of his mother and brother Jeff to claim his body. To witness the despairing looks of both batches mourning the loss of a leader silently crouched on either side was a harrowing experience etched in memory. (The proctor too depended on Michael to alert him on impending student crises in the University. His advice from India by s mail not to “speed on his motor bike” came too late for Michael).
 
A fifty year history of the Faculty, for that matter the University of Peradeniya would be sterile without reference to the 1971 and the late 80’s insurrections. After the near idyllic student staff relations on the only residential campus with all other Faculties in the mid 1960’s reported above it was difficult to understand how “five lectures” could “brain wash” even the medical undergraduates by the end of that decade. Isolation in a “student canteen” on the top of the hill estranged them from the staff. A compulsory pass in English before the finals may have contributed to the “kaduwa” culture gaining ground. Without a Senior Common room student problems could not be discussed at Faculty level. However the Scottish custom of “tea up” for the staff twice a day introduced by Prof. Jayawardena served this purpose at Departmental level during my tenure.
Back on the campus in 1968 the first intimation that medical students were involved was the bomb blast at Marr’s Hall in mid march 1971. A roll call of “absentees” was requested officially. One excuse was “I was at the bedside of an aunt in the Kandy Hospital. He knew that I knew it was a lie. He evaded arrest when the curfew was declared on April 5th, but I had to hand him over to the Dean from the “dissecting room” later. An arrest warrant and hand cuffs awaited him outside. Contact was maintained through friends and after special classes the imprisoned sat the 2nd MBBS with the rest of the batch. The ‘disappeared” were however were never accounted for officially, but should be. That the idealistic crème of the intelligentsia of two generations were amongst them haunts one still after forty years.
With both Dental and Veterinary Sciences available only at Peradeniya, (from its inception in 1962) the Faculty exemplified the multiethnicity of Sri Lankans. With foresight, places of worship for all major religions and selected spiritual guides had been in the master plan. (A recent trend to set up places of worship “without worshippers” is to say the least disrespectful to the religion). Ethnic harmony at the Faculty was at its zenith by 1982 with the Barr Kumar Kulasinghams training the Vesak Bakthi Gee and the canteen looking its festive best when the Hindu students hosted Thai Pongal Festival. Visiting WHO Professor Guido Pontecorvo FRS (“my guru”) and wife who enjoyed their hospitality, were to question me after the Tamil “progrom” of 1983 “What happened to the “gentle Sinhalese people” of Sri Lanka. Gentleness as judged by the strange behavior of a bell boy at the Queen’s Hotel rescuing a spider from their bath tub to release it to a more conducive environment-a lesson in “ahimsa”.
The breach of ethnic harmony and “counterfeit nationalism” was the harbinger of the second insurrection. It began with coercion of Faculty Staff to commence lectures before the Tamil students felt safe enough to return. An intimidating group of male students who marched into Anatomy were met with “if you are Dutugemunu’s Yodayas let’s march to Jaffna and fight the LTTE there”. Female students complained that they had been ordered to wear “sarees”. A whisper from Head Anatomy that males should set the example by adopting “national dress” nipped that in the bud.
Imperceptibly however fear psychosis gripped the whole University with the Indo- Lanka accord of 1987 adding fuel to fire. Arrests were made and students imprisoned with retricted access even to student counselors. A third year student (who mimicked me best at the Block concert over forty years) led a protest in the main road at Getambe in mid July 1989. Seeing me at the bus stop he said “Madam no buses today”. He disappeared from the Faculty after we reopened. However in the midst of the carnage two students who were forced to leave the island paid tribute to the “teaching of Anatomy” acknowledging earning their keep in the USA by tutoring Harvard Medical undergraduates in Anatomy!. Without reservation I state that the late Prof. Jayawardene was the visionary for the development of the basic sciences in the fledgling medical school.
When I was less than a year into my research for a PhD in Human Genetics in 1966 he was to write. “You will know best as to what you should pick up there. Only it would be nice if you could have the time, energy inclination to get as much information as possible on any evidence for the genetic bases for the several embryonic or should I say developmental processes eg; field forces, organizers etc… Naturally one would expect that you would be able to get a peep into Molecular Biology as well. That would hopefully be a useful basis for programme in Human Biology Course in the future”. An year later he was designing laboratory space for research informing me “the Vice Chancellor (Sir Nicholas Attygalle) has requested a quadrennial programme of research from our departments with the equipment requirements. There are I believe two staff members in training in your field in the Zoology and Botany departments. They are at present over in Britain. So you are likely to have some work mates with whom you can exchange ideas. You will be returning for the 1968 October sessions I believe”. Prof Jayawardene’s research interest was Comparative Anatomy.
R.Kanagasunderam and F.L.W.Jayawardene. Proc.Zool.Soc.Lond : Vol 128 Part 3, 1957. pp. 301-312.
 
I returned in July 1968. Keeping to the traditions of the Arts Faculty for returning PhD’s Dean Senake Bibile organized a presentation by me. He came to the “dissecting room” the very next day to offer the Faculty van for field trips for my research (No University Grants then).
Prof Jayawardene was away on sabbatical leave, Professor and Head Anatomy was A.D.P (Jacko)Jayathilaka with Raja Bandaranayake “ as Senior Lecturer. Jayathilaka ADP 1965 Arachnoid Granulations in Sheep J.Anat 99 315-27., Jayathilaka ADP 1965 An Electron Microscopic Study of Sheep Arachnoid Granualtions, J.Anat 99 635-49.
A building alongside the Lecture Theatre housed both the Electron Microscope donated by the Japanese Government and the Cytogenetics Laboratory. Prof Jayathilaka’s PhD research in Edinburgh was on the electron microscopy of arachnoid granulations, cited in Gray’s Anatomy. 
He continued his research and also supervised the earliest research degree from a Faculty of Medicine an M.Med Science of Dr M.B.O Pieris in Applied Radiology in 1971
Emigrating soon after, Dr Pieris acknowledged that he secured a post in Community Health Services NHS UK on the strength of the thesis.
Prof Jayathilaka was made Competent Authority of the University during the first insurrection and served as Dean of the Faculty from 1973-1975. He returned from a sabbatical in 1980 and resigned in 1982
(The Departmental staff mid 1976)
 
The Cytogenetics laboratory was equipped on a WHO grant. Research in Human Cytogenetics in Sri Lanka was initiated with technical help from the Department and later funded by NARESA
I recall with gratitude the help and unrestricted access to the Fluorescent Microscopy by the late Prof. S.T.Fernando (Veterinary Sciences) in establishing the Fluorescent techniques which were available only in 1971. In the late 80’s an “unopened crate” with a Fluorescent Microscope donated by the Wellcome Trust was discovered and acquired from the Department of Pharmacology. A Senior Technician, Department of Biochemistry was trained in the techniques of Population Genetics. The techniques of sex chromatin and red cell antigen loci (blood groups) were introduced in the histology and physiology practicals respectively. 
Having apprenticed under Prof. Jayawardene in the teaching of Topographical Anatomy and developing courses in histology and embryology for two years it was easy to slip into teaching and work towards the human biology course “envisioned” without compromising topography. British medical educationist par excellence John Stokes was cautioning against overloading the undergraduate curriculum with “human chromosomes marching across the middle pages of the Lancet”. (my specialty) at the time. With this in mind an introductory course in Genetics for both undergraduates and post graduates of the Faculty of Medical, Dental and Veterinary Sciences and Faculty of Science began in 1968. Participating at the UNESCO Workshop 1970 on the Early Evolution of Life organized by the Prof. Cyril Ponnaperuma of the IFS and T.W.W. inspired the crystallization of an Introductory Biology Course in the Basic Sciences objectives for the course formulated by me are apparently still in use in the Department of Biochemistry. 
Also in 1970 the first International Medical Education workshop conducted by Dr Steve Abrahmson of the University of Southern California was organized for Dean Bibile by T.W.W. and me.
However it was Jayathilaka and Bandaranayake who were the lured into Medical Education the latter resigning in 1976 with the objectives of Biology course on his CV. The Veterinary students moved to their Faculty in 1976. The Dentals were segregated in a “Dental Block” in the mid 70’s. They were brought back to the main block in 1979. Their curriculum was developed with objectives for both General Anatomy and Dental Anatomy before they too moved out in 1995. Prof.Jayathilaka having washed his hands off them the first 50 students of the Karapitiya medical school too were nurtured in Anatomy by me almost single handed – a rewarding challenge.
After experimenting with several dissection guides small Cunningham won the day. A systems approach to topography was introduced early leading to an integrated reproductive sciences course in the late 70’s. By the 80’s “Dissections” were replaced by 3 hr practicals, and the tutorial rooms were dispensed with and replaced by “body side” tutorials. A complaint by a Surgeon that students were clueless about the mediastinum resulted in “All males shirts off” with the females tattooing their chests. (One student who refused to remove his shirt was found to have gynaecomastia and referred for surgery). 
Evaluation was an integral component of the curriculum. Topographical Anatomy was monitored weekly throughout. End of term examinations consisted of all components of the 2nd MBBS. Mere “spotting” at Topographical and Histology practicals were replaced by OSCE type “rotating practicals” long before medical educationists proposed them. The Viva Voce was continued as a vital component for Topographical Anatomy, reducing describing to a bare minimum in the theory component
In 1985 Dr Mark Amerasinghe joined the Department and like the proverbial Gray became the “curator” not of the Museum but the “dissecting room”. He spent most of his time dissecting and was only too happy to teach at the “body side”. He set on example for the rest of the staff and encouraged students to study Anatomy in the Dissecting Room rather than at “Kuppi” classes in the canteen. He had also published a Practical Manual and Learning Guide for Functional Anatomy for Undergraduates to replace the Cunningham by 1996.
By the mid 1990’s introductory courses for Topographical Anatomy and Human Biology had been introduced. Participating at the International Brain Research Organisation (IBRO) organized by the Department of Pharmacology led to a Neurosciences Course. The WHO “ROME” project in 1995 envisioned the replacement of the Study of Medicine by the study of Man in Health and Disease. Topographical Anatomy and Human Biology were integrated components of the curriculum. The vision for Anatomy of Prof Lester Jayawawardene had been accomplished
Multidisciplinary research with the Faculty of Science envisaged by the Vice Chancellor communicated to Prof Jayawardene in 1967 did not materialize as both geneticists referred to opted out of Peradeniya to Colombo and Jaffna respectively. However Dr Sabanayagam recruited in 1977 and trained in cytogenetics in the Department collaborated with the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences in the earliest studies to establish the chromosome constitution of the Asian Elephant. The help of an alumnus Dr Preenie Abeynaike at present Senior Professor and Head of the Department of Veterinary, Public Health and Pharmacology and Dean of the Faculty has also to be acknowledged. When the culture laboratory had to be abandoned due to teaching overload she stepped in to do the chromosome cultures. 
As expected of an academic, research continued apace with earliest from Sri Lanka in Human Cytogenetics communicated in 197
IV th International Congress Human Genetics, Paris 1971. Abstracts in proceedings
 
Following on the footsteps of the renowned W.C.O. Hill (Professor of Anatomy, Colombo) a team of researchers from the University of Peradeniya comprising Drs T.W.Wikramanayake (Nutrition) Sri Pathmanathan (Dental Studies) led by me initiated a longitudinal study of the Uva Bintenna Veddas in 1971. Dr S.B.Ellepola Consultant Pathologist Badulla already into their Genetics joined us. He did the ground work for the field studies with the help of Mr Pihillagedera, G.A. Badulla. 
Dr Ellepola was later recruited to the Faculty of Medicine and appointed Professor of Pathology. He submitted his research “A Genetic Study of the Veddas for an M.Med.Path to the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine in 1987 again a first in Population Geneticist.
The second phase of the longitudinal study of the Uva Bintenne Veddas was conducted from 1993-1996 on a University Grant with trained demonstrators, technicians and Dr Malkanthi Chandrasekera for Dental Consultant and the research reviewed in 2002.
ER Wikramanayake 2002 JRASSL(NS)Vol XL VII pp 105-114)
 
In the mid 70’s pioneering research on male infertility in Sri Lanka was initiated on a WHO grant including participation in an Andrology Workshop.
(Andrology Workshop Singapore 1982) ( Wikramanayake Int.J.Andro - 18: suppl A 1995)
 
Results from semen analyses from males of infertile couples quickly dispelled the myth of the “barren woman” syndrome prevalent in the subcontinent. Biopsies referred by Dr Lakshman Attygalle Genito Urinary Surgeon Colombo led to the identification of syndromes due to pathology in the testis in Sri Lanka. For Dr Tilak Weerasooriya recruited in 1978 “hands on” experience in this research paved the way for doctoral research on the circulation of the testis and a PhD from the University of Kynshu Japan. He is at present Senior Professor of Anatomy and Dean Faculty of Medicine Karapitiya. 
Dr Deepthi Nanayakkara recruited in 1982 the first to undertake doctoral research in Dental Studies in Sri Lanka completed her PhD by 1988. She was appointed Professor of Anatomy of the Faculty of Dental Sceicnes in 2000.
In the late 80’s Archeological Research was conducted at Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa and the National Museum on Central Cultural Fund Grants with Dr Chandrasekera as collaborator.
(Wikramanayake & Chandrasekera- Spolia Zeylanica Vol 41:2004: p.30-68)
Dr Upul Dissanayake recruited to the Faculty of Medicine as Demonstrator in 1991 undertook research in Mendelian Inheritance again for the first time in Sri Lanka. Appointed Lecturer Oral pathology Faculty of Dental Sciences in 1993 he completed an MPhil in 1997 before leaving for doctoral research in the U.K. He is at present Senior Professor of Oral Pathology and Dean Faculty of Dental Sciences.
After almost fifteen years search for academic excellence at graduate level Dr Devika Gunasinghe was recruited in 1996. It is creditable that she completed her MPhil on the role of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in thyroid disease by 2000. With a PhD in “Cancer Metastasis” from the University of Melbourne Australia in 2011 she will be an asset to the Department in both teaching of the basics and research in molecular medicine.
In the last lap of this historical record it was my fortune to represent the Faculty and participate in the Senate Research and Higher Degrees Committee from 1987-1998. In the early nineties the burning question facing Vice Chancellor, Prof Gunadasa was that of accountability for University Research Grants by the recipients. The way out was the initiation of Annual Research Sessions at Faculty level in 1992. The Grant No. and amount had to be indicated in the abstracts. The first session for the Faculty of Medicine was organized by me as (Chairperson, the Faculty Research and Higher Degrees Committee) and Dr Premalatha Balasuriya, Secretary of the Research & Higher Degrees Committee of the Faculty.
However the catalyst for multidisciplinary research had to await the Peradeniya University Annual Research Sessions PURSE in 1996. That PURSE 2010 presented the first multidisciplinary research in orthopaedics was a fitting tribute for the visionary for University research Sir Nicholas Attygalle on his 40th death anniversary.
Recording history 1962-1999 on the eve of my departure brings me back full circle to the staff. With the collaboration of a ‘floating population of permanent staff and no medical demonstrators since the early nineties the backbone of the Department continued to be the stalwarts of the non academic staff both for teaching and research. The vital struts of this backbone during my tenure were Mr AG Siyadoris 1962-1999, Mr TND Sirisena 1963-1994 Caretaker Dissecting Room, Mr RMC Ekanayake 1967-2005 Staff Technical Officer and Ms Chitrangani de Silva 1980 to-date Senior Staff Assistant. Mr Siyadoris recruited to the Landscape Dept at 18 years from the precints of the University joined the Faculty in 1962. Clad in spotless white national dress he cycled to and from Hindagala working unobtrusively and diligently – a role model of “gentlemantly” behavior on campus.
(Farewell to Mr Siyadoris – 1999)
I must take my final curtain call from the students two generations of whom I nurtured during the near forty years. I was saddened to hear that the Dean had requested Academic Staff not to attend the last “Fresher’s Welcome” I was invited to, on the eve of the event.
However my spirits soared for the future of the Faculty and University with the “Going Down” 1999 and the treasured hand sculpted momento with the aspiration “Aim higher, swifter and bolder” for the new millennium.
Eugene Wikramanayake
Emeritus Professor of Anatomy
University of Peradeniya