Dedicated to medicine and to serving the country Dr. Ravi Gnanasundaram Perumalpillai Ravi Perumalpillai was a self-driven ground-breaker who achieved his goals with humility, quiet confidence and a good sense of humour. He treated everyone as equals. He touched the lives of all those he met. A role model to his siblings and cousins, he [...]




Dedicated to medicine and to serving the country

Dr. Ravi Gnanasundaram Perumalpillai

Ravi Perumalpillai was a self-driven ground-breaker who achieved his goals with humility, quiet confidence and a good sense of humour. He treated everyone as equals. He touched the lives of all those he met. A role model to his siblings and cousins, he was the eldest child of Dr. C. Perumalpillai (veterinary surgeon, founder of the Veterinary Council of Ceylon and Ceylon Veterinary Journal) and Gnanambikai (graduate in mathematics and teacher).

Ravi’s education began at Trinity College, Kandy. At seven years (1958) the family left for Khartoum, Sudan, where he attended Comboni College and picked up Arabic within months.  He was later sent as a boarder to St. Edward’s School in Oxford, UK, where he completed secondary school.

Even at an early age he was fearless, purposeful and wise beyond his years. He was the sole support for his mother when they flew with three other children (aged five years to one) from Jaffna to Khartoum with multiple stop-overs over two days, to join his father.  He became a competent horseman in Somalia where he would ride through scrubby terrain while on holiday from the UK, and was the chief caretaker and playmate for the pet cheetah owned by the family.

Ravi pursued a medical career of his own choosing, a focused dedication that he cultivated as a young boy in the Sudan where he would demonstrate the physiology of dissected frogs to friends. He qualified from Middlesex Hospital Medical School (now UCL) London with a MBBS (1974), and in 1979 obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS Edinburgh and England). Further qualifications included: Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore USA, 1988)and MA Oxon, FCSSL. He became a Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the age of 37 at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and continued his teaching and research interests as Senior Lecturer at the University of Oxford, for 25 years.

He authored the textbook ‘Surgery for Ischaemic Heart Disease’, contributed chapters in others including the ‘Oxford Textbook of Surgery’ and has over one hundred other publications. He was Chairman of Cardiac Services at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford from1992-1997.His practice in Oxford included Adult and Paediatric Cardiac Surgery, as well as Thoracic surgery in all age groups. While in the UK, he trained in Cardiothoracic Surgery under Mr. Donald Ross, Prof (now Sir) Magdi Yacoub, Mr. John Wright, Mr. Christopher Lincoln, Mr. Matthias Paneth, and Dr Bruce Reitz amongst others.

His love and sense of duty to his motherland, however, found him laying early foundations for his work in Sri Lanka when he decided to do his internship in Jaffna in 1974/75 at the Jaffna Government General Hospital. There he worked with and was mentored by Drs Vethanayagam, S.K. Maheswaran and R. Natkunam. Dr. Natkunam, a mentor, wrote of Ravi: “I was impressed by his enthusiasm to do surgery and even more by his decision to do it in Jaffna – at a time when most of the young doctors were going out of Sri Lanka – values no doubt inculcated by your parents. A few years later when I had assumed work in Colombo he told me about his interest in cardiac surgery and would visit me there whenever he was on holiday in Sri Lanka – he would tell me about the rapid advances being made in this field of surgery. In the early 1980s, I was in London for 6 months on sabbatical leave – he was at that time Senior Registrar to the famous Sir Magdi Yacoub -  Ravi in fact did most of the operations and I benefited a great lot by watching them work.”  The focused dedication Ravi had for his medicine and his love to share and serve the community is illustrated in these simple statements.

During the 1990/2000s, he brought complete cardio-thoracic surgical teams from Oxford to Sri Lanka to perform complicated open-heart procedures at the National Hospital, Colombo and the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital on many occasions. These visits made a significant contribution to the development and establishment of modern-day cardiac surgery in Sri Lanka.In addition, while in Oxford, Ravi trained five surgeons from Sri Lanka namely, Drs. Panna Goonaratne, G.A. Chandima Amarasena, Rajiv Pieris, Mahendra Munasinghe and K. Gnanakanthan.

Other trainees have been from around the globe including India, Brazil, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Syria and Japan. He has operated in centres in all these countries as well as across Europe demonstrating new techniques of heart valve surgery. He had performed over 20,000 cardiothoracic surgical procedures. He collaborated closely with Dr K.M. Cheriyan who was involved with the establishment of the Madras Medical Mission in Chennai from its inception. The current chief of cardiac surgery Dr. S. Rajan was a trainee in Oxford.

Like his father, he was committed to the development of the north of Sri Lanka and to fulfil his wishes Ravi created the Oxonian Heart Foundation (OXF) to help establish cardiac surgery in the north of the country. Commencing at the Northern Central Hospital (supported by Messrs. Sami and Keshavraj) in 2013, a team from Oxford supported the local cardiac surgical programme and conducted the first of many open-heart surgeries.

At a personal level, Ravi felt he belonged, living in his maternal ancestral home in Kokuvil, Jaffna –where he entertained friends, colleagues, relatives, visiting diaspora and other well-wishers from the community. He loved the air, the water, the food. He encouraged all those he met to invest in the North and East and contribute to the development of Sri Lanka.

To this end in 2017, Ravi personally invested his own resources in an Aloe Vera farm in Allaipiddy in Velanai (Velanai Integrated Agroeconomic Company) to demonstrate the development potential of the area. The company, with other committed shareholders, was established to promote an alternate livelihood opportunity for farmers in the North once the government ban on tobacco growing takes effect in 2020.

He consistently urged senior government officials and diplomats to provide the necessary resources to the North to ensure stability and reconciliation. Nothing need be difficult was his motto.

Taken away from us at a relatively young age, we are proud of our Annai (elder brother) who achieved a lot in a short span of time and was a friend to those from all walks of life.  Words and phrases used to describe Ravi from the many messages of condolence we have received include: mentor, teacher, generous, caring, dedicated, hard-working, good friend, a gem, a great loss to society and Sri Lanka.

He will be sorely missed by all of us and our families; including his wife Shanti, children Rajesh and Shahila and spouses and granddaughters, Amara, Layla, Lakshana and Nayantara.

Usha, Jeeva and Ranjit

The night is starry and he is not here with me

Cyril Anthony Fernando

For men and women everywhere who have found and lost love. It begins with denial, then anger and then acceptance.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines

Write, for example, “The night is starry and the stars are blue

and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind resolves in the sky and sings

Tonight I can write the saddest lines

I loved him, and sometimes he loved me too.

Through nights like this one, seated in the verandah

of his country home in Katana

We used to chat, plan

And remember when we first met.

He loved me, sometimes I loved him too.

How could one have not loved his warm smile and strong independent spirit.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I will never see him, to feel that I have lost him.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without him.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love and prayers could not save his life

The night is starry and he is not here with me.

This is all.

This is all.

In the distant universe, someone is singing on a much higher plane…in the distance

He is at peace

He is blessed, as always.

Marie Alles Fernando  (inspired by Pablo Neruda)


Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.