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Biographical entry Karunaratne, Gamini Wickramarachchi (1929 - 1997)

MRCS and FRCS 1961; MB BS Ceylon 1954.

19 April 1929
Kamburugamuwa, Ceylon
26 May 1997
Paediatric surgeon


Gamini Wickramarachchi Karunaratne, or 'Gam' as he was always called, was a pioneer of paediatric surgery in Sri Lanka. He was born in Kamburugamuwa, southern Sri Lanka, on 19 April 1929. His father was Wilson Karunaratne and his mother was Tilaka. He had two brothers and five sisters. His early schooling was in Matara and he then went up to Ceylon University, qualifying in 1954. Following a period at the Ministry of Health, he decided to become a surgeon and went to the UK for training in 1959, mainly in Liverpool hospitals. He passed the Fellowship two years later.

On his return to Colombo, he became a surgical registrar to the General Hospital. Subsequently, he was a general surgeon in Chilaw, Negombo and Anuradhapura. In 1971, he was selected for a Colombo plan fellowship, which allowed him to return to UK for training in paediatric surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. In 1973, he returned home and was appointed the first paediatric surgeon to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, where he established a first class unit. On the opening of the Sri Jayewardene General Hospital in 1985, he was invited to head the premier unit in the country.

His standing was recognised by the many honours bestowed on him. He was President of the Sri Lanka Paediatric Association in 1979, of the Sri Lanka Medical Association in its centenary year (1987) and of the Sri Lanka College of Surgeons in 1992. These offices brought out his organising ability and his gift of choosing the right people to assist him.

Throughout most of his professional life Sri Lanka was plagued by civil war. He served in the Army reserve, treating casualties when the regular officers were short at the front. His general surgical skills stood him well in paediatrics, where he made contributions to operations for Hirschsprung's disease and on congenital urethral valves.

He attracted young doctors by example and stimulating teaching, and trained the next generation of paediatric surgeons. He travelled widely to surgical meetings, particularly in South East Asia, with a series of excellent contributions based on his experience. These were later published.

He was well liked and respected in the profession and in the community at large. The memory of this friendly gentleman and great conversationalist will long remain. He married Anandanie Kannangara in 1963. They had two children, Kosala, now a consultant paediatrician, and Niranjanie. Gam died on 26 May 1997.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Mr L I Wijesuriya; Ceylon Med J 1997 42 150-151, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England