Obituary - Dr Bertram S Perera

1917 to 2013

It is with nostalgia that I record the passing away of Dr B S Perera who was a Consultant Anaesthetist of the General Hospital, Colombo from 1954 to 1972.  Dr Perera graduated MBBS in 1945 and in 1947 he began his career in anaesthesia. He proceeded to England on a government scholarship and in 1954 obtained the highest professional qualification in anaesthesia that was then available – the two part Diploma in Anaesthesia. 

On his return to Ceylon he was appointed Consultant Anaesthetist to the Colombo Group of Hospitals. He along with six colleagues comprised a group of pioneers in anaesthesia in our country. They included Dr Anthony Lucas who passed the very first Diploma in Anaesthesia examination in 1934 and was considered the only qualified anaesthetist East of Suez. The others were Drs J L C (Laddie) Fernando, Claude Umagiliya, S Ponnambalam, Jimmy Richards and Charles Herath Guneratne. They all had the D.A. (London) qualification. When the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England was formed they were awarded the Fellowship of the Faculty of Anaesthetists.  They were all gifted clinicians and contributed as teachers in the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo.
Later Drs Ponnambalam and B S Perera went back to the United Kingdom on a refresher course in Thoracic Anaesthesia and they became the pioneers in thoracic anaesthesia in Sri Lanka. Lung surgery commenced in the Welisera Chest Hospital and closed heart surgery at Operation theatre ‘C’ of the General Hospital now the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.

I joined Dr Perera in cardiac anaesthesia in Colombo as his House Officer in 1959 and that was the beginning of a close relationship.  I did always seek his advice at different stages of my career and I recall with gratitude his travelling all the way from Australia to attend my inauguration as President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association and returning the very next day.

When he retired from the state sector in 1972, Dr Perera moved to Hong Kong where he worked at the United Christian Hospital for a short period before proceeding to Tasmania, Australia where he worked as a Consultant for many years.

He returned to Sri Lanka in 1994 and from 1997 to 2000 worked on a sessional basis at the Military Hospital, Colombo. He donated all his renumeration to the National Defence Fund and the Kobbekaduwa Trust Fund.

He served as the President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Sri Lanka in 1972 and was the Vice President of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Sri Lanka in 1973. He made several donations to the Sri Lanka Medical Association and to  the College of Anaesthesiologists of Sri Lanka.  The College of Anaesthesiologists conducts a B S Perera oration during the Annual Scientific Sessions every year.

He was an extremely popular and much loved person. He will be long remembered as an entertaining singer and an elegant ball room dancer.  His numerous hobbies included playing contract bridge, playing billiards and rearing Boxer dogs.  He passed away at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka on 10 October 2013 a few days after celebrating his 96th birthday.

He leaves his wife Noeline, four children and several grand children and our sympathies go out to them.

May he rest in peace.

Dr Thistle Jayawardene