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On the 16th of March 2018, Dr Jayan Mendis will do his final ward round at the National Institute of Mental Health. This will mark the end of a remarkable journey during which he almost single handedly transformed the old Angoda mental hospital  to a modern mental health institute.

He had his early education at Sri Sumangala College, Panadura and Thurstan College, Colombo and graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ruhuna in 1984. He completed his internship at the Colombo General Hospital.

Dr Jayan Mendis was appointed to the Angoda Mental hospital as a young post intern doctor in 1986. At that time this hospital was more of an mental asylum than a hospital. The young Dr Mendis was appalled at these primitive conditions and resolved take up psychiatry to change the plight of these poor patients.

Dr Mendis did his postgraduate training at the University Psychiatry unit in Colombo and at North Western Mental Health in Melbourne. He was appointed as a consultant psychiatrist at the Angoda Mental Hospital on returning to Sri Lanka in 1997.

It was a serendipitous turn of events that changed his destiny as well as that of the old Angoda hospital. In 2002 the director of the Angoda hospital had to leave his post followed a dispute with the staff and the post fell vacant. The then Director General of Health Services Dr A.M.L Beligaswatte requested Dr Jayan Mendis to take up the post on an acting basis. The rest as we know is history.

When Dr Jayan Mendis took over as acting director Angoda was a slightly more humane place than what it was in the eighties. But things were far from satisfactory. It was perhaps somewhat like the fictional psychiatry unit in the award winning movie “One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest”! The number of medical officers had increased but they still confined themselves to treating the physical illnesses and had little contact with patients. It was only the eight specialist psychiatrists and the few postgraduate trainees who looked into the mental health aspects of the over 1000 inpatients. The nursing staff had no knowledge of psychiatry and were overworked and demotivated. The minor staff were a law unto themselves and still continued their crude methods of dealing with aggressive patients. The doctors and nurses ignored complaints of assaults by patients as they didn’t want to upset the status quo.

Dr Jayan Mendis gradually set about changing this situation. He naturally met with a lot of resistance but he faced it head on in his characteristic style. He was not afraid to call a spade a spade and was highly critical of some of the asylum type practices that were prevalent at that time. This may not have endeared himself to some but that was his style. I was a first year registrar at that time at NIMH and was fortunate to witness some of his struggles first hand. Now looking back after many years I feel that only a benevolent dictator like him could have changed these practices.

The conventional wisdom among the top experts in mental health at that time was that Angoda should be closed as it can never be changed. Many local politicians too added their voice to this cry but their motive was to grab the valuable land that was to grab the large extent of land that housed it. But Dr Mendis firmly believed that the Mental Hospital was an asset to Sri Lankan psychiatry and had to be protected and developed.

His first strategy was to improve the medical and nursing care. He trained the staff in Basic Psychiatry as well as in the safe practice of seclusion and restraint. He gradually weaned out the archaic practices prevalent at that time and ensured the elimination of violence against patients. He introduced the concept of clinical governance and developed protocols on safe patient management. Angoda was the traditional dumping ground of the health administrators of that time. Health staff members with disciplinary issues were transferred to Angoda as punishment. Dr Mendis opposed this practice vehemently. So much so that some of the top health administrators thought he was a thorn in their flesh.

After improving some of the basics Dr Mendis set about improving the infrastructure of the hospital. The Perinatal psychiatry unit, The Psychiatry Intensive care unit, The Learning disability unit, The Geriatric unit and the child and adolescent unit and the medical unit were added during that time. He also took steps to improve the existing units like the forensic psychiatry unit as well as the occupational therapy and rehabilitation services.  He also established a fully fledged training centre training center with two auditoriums and a Library as well as a research unit. He tapped all possible local as well as foreign sources in order to get funds for these developments. Unlike many medical professionals at that time he was not averse to meeting with politicians to get their support. But he was quite straightforward even with them and was prepared to oppose them when the need arose.

He never neglected his clinical responsibilities despite his heavy administrative responsibility. He was an excellent clinician who always empathized with his patients. He took a personal interest in his juniors and went out of his way to help them. Those of us who worked closely with him knew that there was a heart of gold under the rough exterior!

Dr Mendis relinquished his administrative responsibilities in 2015 after serving for over 13 years. I was fortunate to join him at NIMH as it’s most junior consultant just prior to his retirement and see for myself the tremendous improvement that the hospital has undergone. The stigma associated with the hospital is much less and it attracts a large number of patients despite the presence of a wide network of regional psychiatric units. Medical and Nursing students from several universities come to the NIMH for training.

Dr Jayan Mendis took over the reins of what was believed to be an unsalvageable mental asylum and turned into the National Institute of Mental health of this country. I believe that this would go down in history as one of the greatest achievements in the history of health services in this country. I dare say (with apologies to the late Winston Churchill) that never in the history of mental health has so many owed so much to so few. In this case it was just one.

But I believe the best is yet to come. Devoid of his onerous clinical responsibilities Dr Mendis is bound to get more involved in mental health development.  We his students will do our best to protect and improve his legacy as that is the biggest tribute we can pay him. I am sure Dr Jayan Mendis will be with us all the way supporting us in all possible means for as long as he can.

Original article was published in Colombo Telegraph and written by Dr Sajeewana Amarasinghe – Consultant Psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health

Veteran banker, Past SSCOBA President, Sumangalian Mr. Aravinda Perera appointed as the Deputy Chairman of Pan Asia Bank effecting from 2nd May 2021.

Appointed to the Pan Asia Bank Board in August 2017, he counts over 37 years in the banking sector and functioned as the Managing Director of Sampath Bank PLC from 1st January 2012, until his retirement in September 2016.

Presently he is the Managing Director of Royal Ceramics Lanka PLC and Chairman of Singer Finance (Lanka) PLC. He is a Director of Hayleys PLC, Hayleys Aventura (Private) Ltd., Fentons Ltd., and Hayleys Advantis Ltd. He is also a former Governing Board Member of the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka and Past President of the Association of Professional Bankers, Sri Lanka.

Mr. Perera was honored with the ‘CEO Leadership Achievement Award 2016’ by the Asian Banker and was also the recipient of the prestigious ‘Platinum Honours – 2014’ award by the Postgraduate Institute of Management Alumni (PIMA) of Sri Jayewardenapura University. He was also honored with the ‘Award for the Outstanding Contribution to the Banking Industry – 2015’ by the Association of Professional Bankers and was also awarded an Honorary Life Membership by the Association of Professional Bankers in October 2018.

He is a Member of the Institute of Engineers of Sri Lanka (MIESL) and a Chartered Engineer (C.Eng.). He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK) (FCMA) and a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers – Sri Lanka (FIB). He also holds an MBA from the Post Graduate Institute of Management.

Mr. Perera was the President of Sri Sumangala College Old Boys’ Association from 1992 to 1998.

It is with profound sadness we announce the demise of a distinguished old boy, founding President of Sri Sumangala College Old Boys’ Association – Australia, Mr. Gamini Maharage.

The funeral will be held on Thursday 6th of May 2021 at Bunurong Memorial Park 790 Frankstom – andenong Road, Bangholme VIC 3715, Australia.

May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana!

We are happy to inform you that Sumangalian Maj. Gen. (rtd) Palitha Fernando, Secretary to the State Ministry of Wildlife Conservation Protection Programmes including Electric Fence, Ditch Construction, Re-Forestation and Wildlife Resources Development, the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, has been re-elected as the President of Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA). Maj. Gen. Fernando has served in the SLA executive committee in various capacities since the mid-90s rising to become president.

It gives us great pleasure to extend our heartiest congratulations and sincere best wishes.

We are happy to inform you that our old boy Jayamuni Amal Nisanka De Silva of Sri Lanka Navy (33rd intake) has been promoted to the rank of Commander recently. He is a graduate of University of Kelaniya and specialized in logistics management. He did his MBA at University of Mumbai. Commander De Silva has been awarded four commendation medals from the Commander of the Navy. He received Navy colors in 2012 for his achievements in Badminton.

SSCOBA wishes Commander Amal De Silva all the very best in his new role.

We would like to thank Sumangalian, Mr. Niluka Perera for donating Rs 120,000/- to the School Development Fund of the SSCOBA.

The donation was collected by the Treasurer Mr. Dinesh Ketipearachchi at the SSCOBA Headquarters.

Thank you so much for your generosity!

112th Founders’ Day Alms Giving was successfully held at the College Auditorium on Medin full moon poya day, Sunday, March 28, 2021, with the participation of maha sangha led by Ven. Prof. Kahapola Sugatharatana thero – the Chief Incumbent of Amarapura Chapter and the Chief Incumbent of Rankoth Viharaya, Panadura, principal & teachers of the college, old boys, parents, and students. The alms giving was jointly organized by the College, Old Boys’ Association, Junior Old Boys’ Association, Past Teachers’ Association, and Old Sumangalians Medical Professionals’ Association.

It was especially noted that the organizers also made it a point to invoke merit to great Sumangalian, Patron of SSCOBA late Dr. Neville Fernando to attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one who contributed in numerous ways to make this worthy cause a real success.

We would like to thank Sumangalian, Mr. Nadun Darshana Jayasekara for donating Rs 50,000/- to the School Development Fund of the SSCOBA.

The donation was collected by the Treasurer Mr. Dinesh Ketipearachchi and SSCOBA Exco Member Rajeev Fernando coordinated this donation.

Thank you so much for your generosity!

We would like to thank Sumangalian, Mr. Nishantha Senevirathna who is an Exco Member of the SSCOBA for donating Rs 25,000/- to the School Development Fund of the SSCOBA.

The donation was made at the recently held SSCOBA monthly Exco meeting to the Treasurer Mr. Dinesh Ketipearachchi.

Thank you so much for your generosity!

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