Obituary - Dr Raguppillai Gnanasuntharam

1926 to 2013

Dr R Gnanasuntharam was born on 1 August 1926 and passed away in Sydney on 11 January 2013. He had his education at St Patrick’s College, Jaffna and Jaffna Hindu College from where he entered the Colombo Medical Faculty in 1950.

He graduated MBBS in 1955 and started his training in what turned out to be his life long vocation - anaesthesia in 1956. After serving as a House Officer in Anaesthesia in the Ministry of Health, he was sent to the United Kingdom to obtain postgraduate training in Anaesthesia. He obtained the Fellowship of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (FFARCS) which was the highest qualification one could obtain in his chosen specialty.

On his return to Sri Lanka in 1964, Dr Gnanasuntharam was appointed Consultant Anaesthetist, Government Hospital Batticaloa where he worked until 1967 when he was transferred to Ragama (now Colombo North) General Hospital. In 1969 he was appointed Consultant Anaesthetist to the Colombo Group of Hospitals. He worked here until his retirement in 1986 as the Senior Consultant Anaesthetist of the General Hospital, Colombo (now the National Hospital of Sri Lanka).

Dr Gnanasuntheram was a founder member of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Sri Lanka, served as a member of the Council and was elected the President of the College in 1982. He served on the first Board of Study in Anaesthesiology of the Post graduate Institute of Medicine of the University of Colombo in 1979 and was reappointed to the reconstituted Board of Study and served a full three year term form 1980-1983.

I first met Dr Gnansuntharam in 1971 when I started my training in anaesthesia with him. His commitment to training and teaching was commendable. It is a measure of the meticulous training he imparted that after six months training I could manage to work with confidence as the sole anaesthetist at a Base Hospital in the outstations. He lectured on the Basic Sciences course organised by the College of Anaesthesiologists which lectures he handed over to me on my return from U.K. after training. He was always supportive and took pleasure in the career development not only of me but of all his trainees. He had a caring attitude towards his patients. He was a good anaesthetist who never flaunted his achievements. An undemonstrative nature, humaneness and simplicity were his hallmarks.

After retirement from government service he worked for a period in the private sector in Sri Lanka before arthritis seriously limited his mobility. He was very pleased to see me whenever I visited him at his home during this period. With both his daughters abroad, he decided to migrate to Australia where his elder daughter was living. He was dogged by ill health in the last few years of his life but bore it with equanimity.

Dr Jayantha Jayasuriya, FRCA