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2011 Tamil Health Forum in Montreal

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   Our Beginning; Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna   

From a first batch student

In the year 1978, the university grant commission made a decision to start more medical faculties in Sri Lanka. This brought great News to Jaffna.

The University of Jaffna got the approval to begin work for the medical faculty and to enroll the first batch of nearly 75 Tamil students. They were given the task of finding a place and organizing this in a very short time.

The new Ayurvedic College building in Kaithady was chosen as the temporary location. Late Prof. Hoover (Biochemistry) was appointed as the first Dean of this faculty. He got to work immediately and organized the lecturers & the facility in a short time. We remember and thank him for his great work. He also simplified Biochemistry for us. Mr. Sivanathan the past Director of Education -Jaffna under took the position as the first Registrar of this medical faculty.

We were blessed with a number of committed and experienced teachers from other medical faculties. Some of them stayed with the faculty for a long time with dedication like Drs. Parameswaran(Prof), Sivapalan, Sivasooriya(Prof), Sivagnanasundaram(Prof) , Sivarajah, Mrs. Ganeshamoorthy, Dr. &Mrs. Saravanabawananthan(Prof), Balasubramaniam (Prof), Sreeharan(Prof). They carried through with their commitment during the most difficult times of the facultywe salute them.

Clinical medicine from the basics from Prof. Sreeharan - none of us will ever forget and some of us still carry his concise notes!

Many others came with commitment and contributed their best to the faculty. Drs Karunainathan(Prof),Ambihapathy, Sathiyanathan, Chandrakumar, Naveenan, Dr. & MrsVarman, Narendranathan, Nageswaran, Dr&Mrs. Vetpillai,Dr&Mrs. Ramadas(Prof) . We really appreciate and acknowledge their timely contribution.

With limited resources and lots of hardships, we began our journey. But we were proud to be the first batch of medical students prepared to face the challenges in Jaffna. We were a mix of students from various parts of Sri Lanka shared hardships and made our way through. Kaithady is a quiet and very conservative village. It took a while for them to accept the faculty and our presence there. Initially it was extremely difficult to find an accommodation there. So most of us traveled from other places. Some rented houses and made these into hostel-Sarvothayam is a good example for those of us who remember this place! This little lonely house in front of the faculty is a living reminder of our fun.

We faced an unexpected welcome by our fellow Jaffna university students on the very first day. We thought, since we were the first batch we will have none of this. They surprised us in a big way and made us remember this for the rest of our life. We were paraded through Jaffna town barefoot in the hot sun and given a great welcome in Thirunelvely!!. We patiently waited for an year and shared some of this experience with our juniors-I am sure many of them remember this also!

Like many we also hoped for a "real university experience & environment" when we got into the University. But we accepted Kaithady -a hot hazy humid environment in the midst of a traditional village. But we brought that university experience there within a short time. Yes! We definitely had a good time! If you don't believe me, just count the number of couples who stemmed from the first few batches? We used all the excuses to have fun. Once we went to Nedunthivu with Selva and had a great time. On the way back , we brought a goat hidden on a CTB bus and had a feast in the famous Sarvothayam!

At another occasion we traveled all the way to Batticaloa using the excuse of a bad news (one of our batch mate's father met with an accident and passed away). In our eagerness to get out, we did not even wait for the confirmation. To our surprise, when we reached there, this father greeted us. We swallowed this embarrassment and made this a vacation to the East! At one point, even our teachers didn't buy our stories and continued classes with a few committed students! There are many more stories I can share like this-I am sure every batch has many more stories like this.

With limited books in the library & limited equipments in the labs, our teachers helped us learn by improvising. At the beginning we were really short of cadavers for dissection and four groups worked on each limb at one time - but surely we learnt our Anatomy!

While having fun, we kept the university administration accountable- so that they build the actual medical faculty as promised on time in Thirunelvely. We had to make protest marches, "Shramadana" etc to get work on this building. We are proud that the building is now complete and the trees we planted 25 year ago are now a great scene for the faculty. In this, we remember the late Prof Vithiyananthan for keeping his commitment.

We also remember our best clinical teaching staff at the Jaffna hospital who taught us with dedication. We are proud that our presence raised the profile of the hospital to Jaffna Teaching Hospital. This hospital continues its great services to our community in spite of all the difficulties. During our clinical years, this hospital had the complete cadre of the best clinical staff in all the departments. We also remember Dr. Gunananthan for his extra tutorials.

Many of us never thought about leaving our land. But one way or other we are here working in foreign countries. With the solid foundation we received in spite of all the hardships, most of us are able to compete with the foreign nationals and come up in life. Many even hold faculty/prestigious positions and pursuing teaching here.

The initial problems with GMC recognition put us through hardship & frustration. Anyway we are now happy that because of this many of us made our way to North America/ Australia/New Zealand. Of course there are many who overcame these difficulties in the UK and successfully practicing there.

We are proud to call ourselves the Pioneers of the Jaffna medical faculty-BATCH 1.

We remember, salute and thank all of those who helped us and guided us in the process.

We remember our colleagues who committed to stay and work in Sri Lanka-We really appreciate them. Dr. Pathmalogini. K and many others who dedicated their life to serve the neediest in the Northeast, you are the real heroes. In this we remember one of our great colleagues Dr. Ganesharatnam who lost his life in this process. Dr. Ganeshan also sadly departed us recently. We also remember Dr. Ketheeswary.

I am delighted to recapture this memory at this special occasion after 25 long years.

Forgive me if I have missed out on any other important information/person. I had to prepare this on a short notice and now I am also 25 years older!

Lets unite and pledge our support to continue the good work at the Jaffna Medical Faculty.

Dr. V. Santhakumar-Family Physician
On behalf of the first batch students.

Courtesy: Souvenir, Silver Jubilee Celebration & Overseas Alumni Inauguration Meeting


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