The “Valedictory Academic Meeting” in honour of Prof. Rohan W. Jayasekara
Prof. Rohan W Jayasekara academic, researcher, clinician and administrator par excellence retires after 41 years of service to the University of Colombo
The “Valedictory Academic Meeting” in honour of Prof. Rohan W. Jayasekara was held on 17 September 2015 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. The event was organized to felicitate Prof. Rohan W. Jayasekara who retired from the Faculty of Medicine after a career spanning 41 years.
Prof. Jayasekara was Chair and Senior Professor of Anatomy and the Founder Director of the Human Genetics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo from 1983. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya in 1972 and obtained a Commonwealth Scholarship to read for a doctorate in Human Genetics under the renownedProf. Derek Roberts at the Department of Human
Genetics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. After returning to Sri Lanka, he established the Human Genetics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo in 1983. Through the years, he has held many posts in the Faculty of Medicine including the prestigious post of Dean from 2011 to 2014. He was appointed Chair in Anatomy in the year 2000 and became Senior Professor in 2008. He contributed in numerous ways to both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education in Sri Lanka. Some of his achievements included being admitted as a Fellow of the Galton Institute London, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, London and Honorary Fellow of the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka.
The event was well attended by both medical and non-medical professionals from around the country as well as from abroad. Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake, Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, observed that the Human Genetics Unit was one of the first of its kind in the Asian region at the time it was founded by Prof. Rohan W. Jayasekara. He described how Prof. Jayasekara single handedly ran the unit over one and a half decades leading it to a position that is comparable to any in the developed world. He also commended Prof. Jayasekara for ensuring the continuity of the good work he started as an excellent administrator.
The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Jennifer Perera commented on Prof. Jayasekara’s pioneering efforts in establishing Genetic Counselling services at the Human Genetics Unit.
She commended his commitment to ensuring that Medical Genetics played a centre role in the prevention and management of genetically inherited disorders. She also noted how he made the complicated science of genetics simple to learners. She also observed the value that he placed on cadaveric dissections in undergraduate teaching and learning, thus ensuring that the subject of Anatomy was taught adequately as it is fundamental to the understanding of the human body.
Prof. Vajira H.W. Dissanayake, the current Director of the Human Genetics Unit and Professor in Anatomy, who has followed Prof. Jayasekara, in his footsteps for nearly two decades, gave a detailed account about Prof. Jayasekara’s life and his major contributions to Medical Genetics in Sri Lanka. He described how Prof. Jayasekara founded the Human Genetics Unit with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and continued his excellent contribution to its development by working closely with genetic centres in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. He mentioned that during the past decade, the Human Genetics Unit has received tremendous international recognition and today it is a part of the Global Genomics Medicine Collaborative convened by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science of USA. He stated that the Unit currently has a fully-fledged team of clinical geneticists, cytogeneticists, molecular geneticists, haematologists, scientists, bioinformaticians, and technicians and has over 60 research papers and 220 conference abstracts to its credit over the past decade.
Prof. Dissanayake also highlighted on the vital role Prof. Jayasekara played in introducing basic medical genetics to the medial curriculum and how the textbook on ‘Basic Medical Genetics’ written by Prof. Jayasekara for medical students has helped many generations of medical graduates in the country. He mentioned that is hard to find a medical specialist in Sri Lanka today who has not been taught by Prof. Jayasekara.
The others who spoke at the meeting were the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, Prof. Mohan de Silva, the Head of Department of Anatomy, Colombo Medical Faculty, Dr. Ajith P. Malalasekera, Dr. M. Madhuwanthi Dissanayake, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anatomy and the Deputy Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, Prof. Senaka Rajapakse.
Brief presentations were also made showcasing frontier research in genomic and regenerative medicine at the Human Genetics Unit. Prof. Jayasekara was presented with a token of appreciation, a memento depicting the DNA double helix with the inscription: ‘Token of Appreciation – on his retirement after four decades of distinguished service as an academic, researcher, clinician and administrator par excellence. Sir, you inspired and guided us all. It has been a privilege to have been your student and colleague. We wish you happiness and good health in the years ahead’.
A Felicitation Volume on his life and times containing articles written by colleagues, students, and friends of Prof. Rohan W Jayasekara, compiled by Dr. Nirmala Sirisena, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anatomy, was also released to mark the occasion.
The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by Dr. D. J. Anthony, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anatomy. A portrait of Prof. Rohan Jayasekara was unveiled at the Human Genetics Unit following the conclusion of the meeting and the guests, who numbered nearly 300, were entertained to refreshments at the Senior Common Room of the Faculty.