Here in Sri Lanka, on a short holiday from the USA where he lives, is Doctor Clifford Claude Perera M.D., and his wife Shiranti. Born in Aratchikattuwa, to parents who were highly respected in the village, he schooled at St. Joseph’s College and from his very early days had a passion to be a doctor [...]

Sunday Times 2

The good doctor

Although both a cook and car enthusiast, Dr. Clifford Claude Perera's passion has always been medicine

Here in Sri Lanka, on a short holiday from the USA where he lives, is Doctor Clifford Claude Perera M.D., and his wife Shiranti.
Born in Aratchikattuwa, to parents who were highly respected in the village, he schooled at St. Joseph’s College and from his very early days had a passion to be a doctor of medicine. Encouraged by his father, Victor Stanley Perera, an engineer at Rowlands Limited and his mother, Mary Magdalene Navaratne, young Clifford excelled in his studies and in June 1963 qualified to enter Medical College much to the joy of the family.

“In my fourth year in Medical College, my mother coaxed me to sit for the ECFMG (Education Council for Foreign Medical Graduates) exam conducted by the American Medical Establishment for doctors outside USA who were interested in seeking entry into the American Medical System by claiming eligibility. Although I was only a fourth year medical student I finally did so, purely to satisfy her. When the results came and I had got through my mother’s joy knew no bounds.”

Dr. Clifford and wife Shiranti

“Dr. Daya Perera, my batch-mate who passed this same exam and gained entry to the USA contacted me saying that the knowledge and experience gained in Sri Lanka was more than adequate to handle the responsibilities that he was entrusted with and encouraged me to come over. Though willing, I put it on ‘hold’ until I had passed out as a doctor and gained some practical experience.”

After passing out as a doctor Dr. Clifford did his internship at Colombo General Hospital in Prof. Roly Jayewardene’s unit for a period of six months and then was at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital working for Dr. Sandya Sandarasagara, where he was exposed to paediatric surgery which was invaluable in terms of experience.

At the end of 15 months he requested for a transfer to the Chilaw Hospital as his mother in particular and other relatives were looking forward to having him working close to home. He worked in the OPD and was later the House Surgeon responsible for the surgical care of the patients and in addition also stood in for the JMO in his absence attending to post mortems and medico-legal cases.

A positive nuisance which had never been taken care at the Chilaw Hospital was the stray cattle and dogs roaming in the hospital premises premises close to the wards. Dr. Clifford took immediate action to relieve the patients of this menace although certain measures taken did not find favour with some of the minor staff. He remembers his stay in Chilaw with nostalgia – meeting fun loving people and attending parties with music, song and dance and tasty sea food.

In 1971, he resigned from government service and went into private practice with a friend, Dr. Bala Tharmoderam Pillai, in Avissawella.

It was a fateful move. A dear friend who was getting married requested him to be his best man and it was here that Dr. Clifford met Shiranti Pieries, one of the bridesmaids who literally swept him off his feet. In May 1971 they were married and started life in Avissawella by which time he had a lucrative and growing practice.

“A major part of the house we were living in was unoccupied and one afternoon when I was in my study reading a medical journal I heard a piercing scream. It was my new wife standing on our brand new teak table with mop in hand, shouting for help. On the ground was a snake making a hasty exit. The cook rose to the occasion, took control and did the needful, but getting my wife to come down to ground level took some time! The fear that was instilled in her mind at that moment impelled us to plan on going across to USA without delay,” he recalls.

Dr. Daya Perera had been working towards organising this and soon they received two air tickets from St.Joseph’s Hospital, Michigan with the assurance that the hospital would employ him and provide all the necessities. “Shiranti and I were all set to go with three pounds and 10 shillings that was allowed at that time. We stopped in England to spend two weeks with my brothers Ivor and Dennis who generously added more foreign exchange to the pittance with which we were expected to start life in USA!” he says.

Dr. Perera was there to receive them and they were soon settled in their two-bedroomed quarters on January 2, 1972.

“When I reported for work I had all the experience to handle the duties that were entrusted to me, but still had to go through State Licence Exams to obtain my individual licence. After passing the stipulated exams the Certificate to Practice was issued. Since I came on a J2 Visa, the Green Card was issued to me and in the fourth week I was drafted to work in Vietnam. Since I was a surgeon and was classified as A1, I was expected to leave at any moment. With a wife who was by that time pregnant, many friends advised me to go to Canada instead but I agreed to serve in Vietnam since I did not want to back out of my first assignment. But fortunately the call to proceed to Vietnam was postponed by the Federal Government and I came from Michigan to Ohio after my term with the Michigan Hospital came to an end,” he says.

After settling down in Ohio, Falls View Hospital invited Dr. Clifford to go through an accredited programme for three years specialising in Psychiatry and Neurology. He sat for the Speciality Board exam and next came the written exam followed by the clinical exam to practise as a Specialist. He was invited to join their staff and within a few years he was appointed Director of Medical Education Training & Overseeing Programmes for Medical Students as well as Resident Doctors. In that programme his faculty rank was Associate Clinical Professor. He has the distinction of being named the 2002 Physician of the Year by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Soon afterwards he was invited by private practice groups to join them. He was at the time a Consultant to Private Practice Groups and Consultant to the Committees in the Akron surrounding Counties.

He spearheaded the opening of Community Health Centres, Emergency Services in different Counties and served on their Boards appointed by the State. He also maintained a successful private practice which he later sold. After being in retirement for eight months, Dr. Clifford joined a large multi-speciality group that owns a hospital and is now building yet another. He works two days a week at his own time and schedule. “I am not working to earn an income,” he says. “This is called ‘Progressive Retirement with Pleasure’.”
Dr. Clifford, is an expert cook and a connoisseur when it comes to food and drink whilst Shiranti is an excellent hostess. He is a car enthusiast and there is never a dull moment when in his company. He is a keen golfer as well.

Dr. Clifford and Shiranti have two children Dhinali and Ruwan and four grand-children. They maintain a home in Colombo and try to visit Sri Lanka at least once in two years, if not once a year. Whenever they come the good doctor brings with him a bag full of vital medicines which he administers free-of-charge to those who consult him.

A doctor who has the patience to listen to his patients, examine them thoroughly and diagnose their illness, he still finds the time to familiarise himself with the latest discoveries in medicine. Dr. Clifford enjoys treating someone who is ailing regardless of whatever time of the day or night it is.

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