An Interview with a Sri Lankan Doctor
During my medical internship in Sri Lanka, I have met a lot of very inspiring women. One of them is Dr…. (44). We met on a field trip where we visited the first training clinic in family medicine in Galle. During her career, she had to make several choices to get where she wanted to be. This is a vital element of good personal leadership.
Dr…. in the training clinic
- 1996-2002 Medical student, University of Ruhuna Sri Lanka
- 2002-2003 Medical internship
- 2003-2004 Medical officer, Galle
- 2006-2008 Post graduate University of Maastricht, The Netherlands
- 2009-2011 Family Medicine
- 2013- 2018 PhD Public Health, Maastricht The Netherlands
What was your first job?
My first job was as a medical officer in public health in Galle.
Was that what you wanted?
Not really, I had aimed for a career in hospital medicine, this was not my first choice. In this job there were a lot of meetings and a lot of administration, I had wanted to do a more clinical job.
One month after I started this job, we were unfortunate to be hit by a tsunami. From there on my work got much busier, there were more things I now needed to arrange. I coordinated all the health related teams who came to Sri Lanka to help. There were many teams from around the world, that had to be brought together. This was quite a task. People came and went, I worked very long days. I really wanted to do something for all that had been affected. At that time my husband and myself also had a GP-practice in our house where we treated minor injuries. I really enjoyed this job; it was very dynamic.
What was your next step in career?
I actually ended up at the Department of Public health. I received great feedback about my role during the tsunami, so they asked me to join their team. Initially, this was not something I had wanted, but I somehow made a choice to and accepted the role. I actually enjoyed it a lot and soon after other paths opened up.
A professor from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands exempted a scholarship for a postgraduate post in the Netherlands. The department thought of me, so I applied and got in! During this period I was also pregnant. After a very stressful period sorting visas, my husband, baby and I moved to the Netherlands. Everything was so different over there, we had difficulties with the language, with the weather, actually with everything. But later on we adjusted, and we stayed for two years. After that, I also started my PhD I continued to go back and forth to the Netherlands for research.
Did you miss the clinical work?
After a while, I really wanted to do more clinical work; eventually, I managed to get into family medicine. Unfortunately, during this period my mother and father got very ill. This changed a lot, it was a tough period of my life.
And now you are setting up the speciality Family Medicine at your University?
Yes, family medicine was previously not a speciality at our University. I now develop the curriculum for our university. I am happy because we got the approval and from next year we are going to start lecturing in family medicine at the University. Meanwhile, we have also set up a training clinic for the students where they can train in practice. We are expecting our first interns next year! The future is to expand as a speciality, to have final year exams and an entire faculty for this speciality.
What do you do to relax?
I practice yoga and play the piano. I also enjoy watching films now and then.
What would you recommend to ambitious young doctors?
Commit yourself, don’t ever think that you can’t do something! And also do not neglect your family, they always come first. I have always tried to do this.
Is there anything you regret? Is there something you would have done differently?
Well, I used to have regrets but I am now very satisfied with how things are going.
I wanted to do paediatrics at first, but the downside was that I wouldn’t be able to spend time with my family since the practice would be very demanding. I made a choice to spend more time with my family and find the clinical roles in another speciality of medicine. For me, that is family medicine. I really enjoy the clinical part in family medicine, so now I don’t regret it anymore.
The training clinic, Thalapitiya, The University of Ruhuna, faculty of medicine