Dr. Nandaka Abeygunawardena : Pioneer Interventional Radiologist

It is now one year since the passing of pioneer radiologist Dr. Nandaka Abeygunawardena, and this is the ideal time to remember him with gratitude.

Dr. Abeygunawardena joined the Department of Radiology of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in early 1990s. He was able to win the hearts of all categories of staff who remember him as dark pleasant gentleman with a wide-open friendly smile.

By this time, the field of interventional radiology was beginning to creep up as a branch of Radiology and he himself took the challenge of establishing it initially at the National Hospital.

As there was no organised training programme for Interventional Radiology available in the country then, he made contacts with experts in the field to learn from foreign colleagues.

Therefore, he was able to commence both basic and advanced interventional radiological procedures starting from the grass-root level. He is regarded with respect as the father of interventional radiology in Sri Lanka.

With his keen interest and untiring efforts, he was able to procure a state-of-art digital angiography machine to the main radiology department NHSL. This tremendously boosted the interventional radiology capabilities of his unit. With this new tool, he was able to perform neurological and head and neck interventions.

Therefore, he was much sought-after and the eminent neurosurgeons at that time were able to get the benefit from neuro-imaging. All neuro surgeons and their patients were well aided by him in management of arteriovenous malformations, cerebral aneurysms, etc. His unparelled interventional skills helped him perform these advanced procedures with minimal or no complications.

He was a great teacher and mentor to his juniors and the present leading interventional radiologists in the country are his erstwhile trainees. Dr. Abeygunawardena was very proud to see his trainees becoming skillful interventionalists in various hospitals in the country. Through his strenuous efforts many interventional radiology centres were established all over the country, taking vascular and interventional radiology further into the community.

Dr. Nandaka Abeygunawardene, was born as the second child in a middle-class family in Tangalle in 1959. His father was administrative officer and Government Agent and young Nandaka had his primary education at a local school. Later, he joined Ananda College to complete his GCE Advanced Level and qualified to enter the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo.

After passing out as an MBBS Doctor and completing his peripheral services, Dr. Abeygunawardena enrolled in to the postgraduate in-service programme in radiology of the Post Graduate Medical Institute. He was among the first few trainees to join the training programme in Radiology in the 1980s.

After the successful completion of his final MD Radiology examination, Dr. Abeygunawardena underwent his overseas training in at the Royal Newcastle Hospital, NSW, Australia, under Dr. Ajith de Silva.

On his return, Dr. Abeygunawardena was appointed Consultant Radiologist at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. He was credited with developing infrastructure in Karapitiya Hospital and rendered a yeoman service to patients there. He frequently used to say that those were his memorable days; where he was able to improve radiology, down south.

Later he got a transfer to Castle Street Hospital again as the first permanent radiologist there, where he started radiological imaging of obstetrics, neonatalogy, and gynaecology with newly-acquired colour Doppler ultrasound scanners.

He assumed duties at his last destination the National Hospital of Sri Lanka at the interventional unit. We were lucky enough to be his students and first to learn techniques of Interventional Radiology from him.

He became the Consultant-in-Charge of the Interventional Unit, where he developed the centre to be a unit of excellence. He has passed his ‘Shilpa’ and art to all training equally without any reservation. He was appointed the head of Department of Radiology at the National Hospital, which is the largest such unit in the country. Later he also functioned as the Secretary and finally, as Chairman of the board of study of Radiology. He was the main person responsible for postgraduate training and conducting examinations during his tenure.

Dr. Abeygunawardena retired at the age of 55 and his farewell ceremony was attended by a large number of radiologists from all over the country, which was in fact, testimony to his illustrious career. He mostly spent his retirement leading a time full of religious engagement and attending to patients occasionally.

Reminding us the uncertainty of human life, he was later diagnosed with urothelial cancer, which he accepted with courage. He underwent many surgical procedures, especially due to pressure from his students and colleagues, though he understood the uncertainty of life.

Dr. Abeygunawardena passed away while undergoing treatment in the presence of his former students and family. He always used to advise us: “Do your job properly, and always be honest to yourself”.

These words still echo in our ears. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

His grateful trainees,

Dr. Chandrasiri Lokubalasooriya

Dr. Aruna Pallewatte



Prof. W.S. Fernando : Versatile Academic

It is no doubt that Prof. W.S. Fernando was a remarkable individual. To be an academic is no easy task, but he bore it well. Sadly, a few weeks ago, Prof. Fernando passed away after contributing immensely to the lives of many students for over four decades.

He joined the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon as a visiting lecturer in 1984. Up until his retirement in 2012, Prof. Fernando conducted lectures in the areas of Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Mathematics to the undergraduates of the Graduateship Programme in Chemistry (GIC).

I was introduced to Prof. Fernando back in 2003 as a freshman when he came to teach us Molecular Spectroscopy. Prof. Fernando was always admired for his way of lecturing and presenting. His explanations were to the point and comprehensive. As undergraduates, we had the privilege of having extensive discussions with him regarding the topics he taught during class.

All he needed to clarify our doubts was a piece of white chalk and a blackboard. He did not have to refer to any textbook, which was an indication of the depth of knowledge that Prof. Fernando had.

Back in the day, there were two senior academics assigned per physical chemistry lab. On some occasions, it was Prof. W.S. Fernando along with Prof. J.N.O. Fernando, Founder of CCS, who taught our labs. They were two of the best physical chemists that we had back then. Therefore, it became a unique educational experience for us. Prof. Fernando executed his duties as a visiting Professor of the institute while holding several noteworthy positions at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

He was appointed as the Head of the Department of Chemistry from 1990 – 1998, and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences from 1998 – 2004. He served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and acting Vice-Chancellor on several occasions as well. Regardless of the weight of his responsibilities, Prof. Fernando never missed any of his lectures or practicals.

As students, we were grateful for the commitment and effort that he put into his lecture hours. Prof. Fernando was always a lecturer who did not hesitate to recommend his students. Many of us have received letters of recommendation from him to pursue our doctoral studies.

Even before his demise, Prof. Fernando visited the Institute premises frequently. He constantly asked about the current status of research being done at the Institute, and whether we were actively conducting research at the Institute premises. Prof. Fernando was also the Chairman of the Royal Society of Chemistry (Sri Lanka section).

Prof. Fernando was a humble and simple individual. He treated everyone he met with the same respect, regardless of whether it was a student or a lab attendant. His personality as a senior professor reflected well in his actions and deeds.

Sameera R. Gunatilake,

Senior Lecturer, Institute of Chemistry Ceylon