The professorial surgical unit of the Peradeniya Medical Faculty began in 1963 in the surgical wards of General Hospital Kandy. Professor Fonseka was the first head. After a brief period the unit was taken over by Professor H.S. Keerthisinghe who was a dedicated and an innovative teacher. Early 1970's were turbulent times in the country and it is a tribute to the unit that it remained well organised with a sustained academic program. Research activities too reached a zenith with Dr. H.L. Eaton, Dr. C. Barrkumarakulasinghe and Dr. A.P.R. Aluwihare joining the unit.
The latter two in went on to hold the chair of surgery in the late 1970 - and '80. Professor A.P.R. Aluwihare retired in 2004. Since then Professor P.C.A. Ratnatunga holds the chair in surgery.
Colorectal surgery was the first area of special interest developed by the unit especially as Professor Aluwihare took a keen interest. Increasing interest in paediatric colorectal work led to paediatric surgery becoming also a special interest. Professor Aluwihare was awarded a Hunterian professorship based in his paediatric colorectal work.Together with the oesophageal work done by all members of staff, gastroenterology became an area of focused interest.
Dr. P.C.A. Ratnatunga joined the unit in the very late 1970's and vascular surgery also took off. The quality of care attention offered to general surgical work loads, student teaching programmes and the research interests gradually came to establish a reputation for the unit in the surgical fraternity of Sri Lanka.
In 1982 the surgical unit shifted to the new teaching hospital at Peradeniya where it is housed to date.