Dr. TONY DON MICHAEL Doctor with a holistic approach to patients On September 20, we received the sad news that Tony had passed away. He was 84 years old and lived a productive and successful life. He was an eminent cardiologist. Tony and I grew up together and attended Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya from kindergarten [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka




Doctor with a holistic approach to patients

On September 20, we received the sad news that Tony had passed away. He was 84 years old and lived a productive and successful life. He was an eminent cardiologist.

Tony and I grew up together and attended Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya from kindergarten to standard two. We joined St. Peter’s College Colombo in standard three. We were kindred spirits. Tony was an only child and I was the only boy in my family.

At St. Peter’s, Tony’s achievements were many. He got into university and enjoyed a brilliant academic record in Medical College. Tony’s father and mother played a pivotal role in his upbringing. His father was the driving force in his educational and recreational activities. He even helped his friends like me. Tony’s unique choice of friends helped to promote his varied interests. Mano Chanmugam, Quincey Rabot, Ashley Halpe, Anton Perera, Gamini Wijeyesinghe and myself, who became experts in their own field. Tony and his father were great friends of the famous Sir Cyril de Zoysa family. Sir Cyril’s brother and his sons were of immense benefit to them. They advised Tony on his investments and Sri Lankan business interests. Tilak De Zoysa is Tony’s trustee and dear friend.

Tony received his cricket colours at St. Peter’s. He was an excellent batsman and  athlete. He received the highest athletic honours at St. Peter’s and at university. Tony had a powerful tenor voice and his forte was songs of the Italian period and other classical arias. He performed at various concert halls and on the radio as well.  He even received a scholarship to La Scala in Milan for Opera singing.

Tony left for England after his internship in Sri Lanka. He was one of the few overseas students to obtain the MRCP (London) and MRCP (Edinburgh). At the age of 29, he held two important positions, namely as Chief of Internal Medicine, Abadan and Professor of Medicine, University of Gundishpoor, Iran. He was able to work with the best in the field of Cardiology.

At the Cleveland Clinic, he worked with Mason Sones, who invented coronary angiography and at Cedars Sinai with Jeremy Swan of Swan-Gantz Catheter fame. He had three board certifications in internal medicine, cardiology and bariatrics. He started the first Cardiology-Bariatric Unit in the US. He was an F.A.C.C.; F.R.C.P.; F.A.C.P.; F.A.C.C.P.; F.E.S.C.; F.A.H.A. and F.C.G.S.  His publications included 200 papers, 100 abstracts, five chapters in cardiology text books, a new classification of cardiogenic shock, which is still the standard and the single author text book of cardiology published by McGraw Hill. He had 20 published US patents. He took three cardiac teams to train doctors in Sri Lanka, at his own expense.

He was awarded Sri Lankan honours for philanthropic and scientific work and was the Honorary Sri Lankan Consul for California. He was recognized by the Mayor of Bakersfield for his outstanding contributions in the medical field to Kern County.

I had stayed with Tony for long periods of time. I instinctively knew when he was worried about his patients. He met their spouses and families and got to know their problems. So many of his patients became his friends. Take Elsie for example. She is 96 years old and accompanied him when he sang. Tony was the best example of a caring doctor who had a holistic approach to his patient and family. What an amazing man he was!

Tony was a caring and loving father to his three daughters, Shahnaz, Rohays and Ceri and a concerned grandfather to his three grandchildren. He was a devout Catholic.

Tony was a ballroom dancer and took part in competitions with Sharmini, winning a number of trophies. Tony and Sharmini shared 17 idyllic years of blissful marriage.  They were not only lovers but their relationship was all encompassing-sharing their ambitions, Tony’s work and inventions. They enjoyed excellent cuisine. Number 4109, Sill Place was a warm house and a beacon of hospitality to everyone (big or small) who visited them.

I recall the great love stories of the past, Anthony and Cleopatra, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of Shaker Heights, Ohio and now Tony and Sharmini of Bakersfield, California.

Tony, I am sure was met at the gates of heaven by his beloved father, his gracious and gentle mother Lilian amongst others. Let me join Sharmini in saying “Farewell my lovely”. It should be just “Adieu”. I know for certain that in the not too distant future, we shall all meet again in “Eldorado”. Tony and Sharmini will be united again forever. We shall sip the nectar of the Gods.

Till we meet again!

Your life long and grieving friend,

- Dr. Nihal Abeyesundere

His medical friends called him the ‘Renaissance man’

Dr. Tony Don Michael (Tantrimudalige Anthony Don Michael) of Bakersfield, California passed away on September 18, at the age of 84. Dr. Don Michael was board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, and bariatrics. He was the only person in the United States with all three qualifications.

His medical friends referred to Dr. Don Michael, the internationally known cardiologist, as a “Renaissance man”. Cutting edge technology and an emphasis on prevention of heart disease and stroke dominated his interest in the practice of medicine. These interests led to the development of the Advanced Heart and Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, which was his brainchild and reflected these concepts. He was a great believer in non-invasive testing, especially non-invasive angiography and was convinced that more, not less, time should be spent by doctors with patients; and that less, not more, drugs are important.

Dr. Don Michael invented and used ultrasound to open blocked arteries and a facemask for doctors to prevent AIDS, the only one of its kind. His textbook and CD in cardiology, emphasizes the bedside approach. Dr. Don Michael has published numerous articles, abstracts and chapters in several textbooks, and was a prolific inventor with over 30 high tech cardiology patents to his credit. Several of these inventions are being used in international research and have earned him a fellowship in the European Society of Cardiology.

Dr. Don Michael was a full clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, the president and director of the Advanced Heart and Medical Center, and had been honoured by inclusion in five “Who’s Who” directories. He served on national and international committees of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

Dr. Don Michael was recognized for taking the first heart transplant team to Sri Lanka where they performed the first open heart surgeries in the country.

He was conferred the title of Deshamanya for his contributions to medicine in Sri Lanka. He received many awards including the Vidya Jyothi award in 1990, American Inventor of the year in 1992 as well as being honoured by the Mayor of Bakersfield.

He had a variety of non-medical interests, which he shared with his wife Sharmini, ballroom dancing, opera singing, sports and philanthropy.

Dr. Tony Don Michael was the first Sri Lankan expatriate to be chosen by President Ranasinghe Premadasa and the Sri Lankan Government, to be Honorary Consul in Los Angeles.  He was a past pupil of St. Peter’s College, Colombo.

Dr. Don Michael was married to Sharmini and father of daughters Shahnaz, Rohays and Ceri of Bakersfield, California.

- Jayam Rutnam


The light you lit in your students will be passed on

A light has gone out, without so much as a flicker. All that is left is the precious memory of how brightly it burnt and the warmth it gave us.

She was a dear friend and cherished colleague. But we knew her as a respected teacher. Professor Rohini Hewamanna was a proud product of the University of Colombo. It is people of her calibre that uplift the name of the university system. She obtained her BSc in 1975 and completed her PhD in Radiobiology in 1981 from the University of London. Since then, for well over 30 years, she contributed her valuable service to many universities, various organizations and committees.

She had specialized in Radiation Biology. Yet anyone who knew her would say otherwise. She was an expert in many things. She was an excellent teacher who believed in hard work and not in mere memorising. She always urged students to read more. She stressed the fact that students should not be confined to their studies. She had a vast knowledge and did not hesitate to share it with the students as long as the students proved that they were worthy enough to receive the knowledge.

Answers were never forthcoming if you asked her a question. You would have to go to her with your version of the answer. Then she would willingly discuss the question with you. That was Professor Hewamanna.

Her knowledge was not restricted to her field. She was well read and had a fine knowledge on current affairs. You could not just attend her lectures. You would have to answer her questions on what is happening in our country or in Zimbabwe. She did not want a bunch of students who had all ‘A’s and yet were not aware of their surroundings, to go out into the world. She wanted to create a student just like her. Unfortunately, she did not realise that she had no equals – she was one of a kind!

Her greatest quality was her strong personality. She was not afraid of anything or anyone. She treated everyone the same. Be it the students from the University of Colombo or any other university or institution, they were all her students. She did her best as a teacher till the very last moment of her life. She smiled and spoke to everyone whom she met along the road whether it was a student, a member of the non-academic staff or a colleague.

Prof. Hewamanna was an expert in working with people. She had successfully held a number of positions in many organizations and committees. She did not just hold a position for the sake of having it. She worked hard for the organization or for the committee or for the people involved. She fought hard for good and just causes. She was unbiased in taking decisions and was firm in her beliefs.

Yes, she was tough and very strict. She asked simple questions and she expected an accurate answer. She would pull you up the moment she saw you do something wrong or make a mistake. That was how much she loved and cared for her juniors and students.

The courage she showed in the final days of her life would leave a person speechless. She was close to retirement when she fell gravely ill. She could have easily taken leave and stayed at home. However she endured all her pain and came to the university to fulfil her duties.We knew it was very hard for her to move around, let alone conduct lectures. Somehow, she found the strength to teach and never missed a lecture. We could often see her seated down and gathering all her strength to complete the lecture discussions. It was truly inspiring, not only for the students but also for the other teachers around her. She was a teacher par excellence.

In short, it will be next to impossible to replace her. Her place in the university and in our hearts will be forever vacant. We will bear the loss of one of the greatest persons who lived among us and was loved by us with heavy hearts. After a life well spent, a beloved daughter, wife, mother and teacher who inspired many generations of young minds, bade farewell. The light you lit in your students will be passed on to thousands in the future, carrying your legacy. May you attain the supreme bliss of nibbana!

- Jivendra Wickramasinghe



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