Veteran academic and educationist Professor Mailvahanan Sivasuriya (86) passed away on 26 February, 2019. Professor Sivasooriya, was the former Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Jaffna and later was its Chancellor. A practising Hindu hailing from an orthodox Jaffna family, is one of the great personality in the history of the Faculty of Medicine at Jaffna University. Born on 20 April 1933 in Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia, was the only son of late Thambiah Mailvahanan of Moolai (an educationist in Malaysia) and late Maheswari Chellappa of Chulipuram; husband of Shanthi and father of Shivanthini (Adelaide) and Dr. Sivaganesh (Colombo) and brother of late Thavamalar, Sivamalar, Mahamalar, late Nagamalar and Ponmalar (all of Malaysia).
In 1948, teenaged Sivasuriya was sent for high school education in Sri Lanka under the care of his ‘Mutha Annai’ (cousin brother) late Thambiah of Moolai. On completion of schooling at Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, ‘Mutha Annai’ sent his cousin to live with his brother Dr. Nitchingam, who was a successful medical practitioner in Colombo, to follow pre-university classes at St.Joseph College. Under the care of ‘Annai Mama’ (loving cousin), young Sivasuriya excelled and in 1958, entered the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ceylon the only university in Sri Lanka (earlier Ceylon), where he received a MBBS degree.
On graduation as a medical doctor, Dr. Sivasuriya began his long career as a lecturer as one of the founding staff members of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in 1962 now University of Peradeniya. In 1967 went to U.K. on sabbatical leave to complete his doctorate studies and returned with many qualifications to his credit. Sivasuriya is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, American College of Surgeons, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka.
After a brief period at the Medical Faculty at Peradeniya University, he decided to move to the Faculty of Medicine at University of Jaffna as the founder Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and served as Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Jaffna. As a successful medical practitioner he was offered many opportunities, yet based on principle opted not to do private practice during the time in government service, nor after retirement. That itself speaks volumes of his character of respecting the noble medical profession.
Prof. Sivasuriya, true to Albert Einstein saying “Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living” served tirelessly to help many young adults to graduate out of Jaffna University as medical interns, especially during the a long stint at Jaffna University, that included the civil war years. Today many of them are serving as doctors in the country and around the world; many always fondly refer to their professor for his dedication to work, some remembering him for tirelessly cycling to work daily during the years of civil-war. On retirement, Prof. Sivasuriya moved to Colombo with his family, however was invited back by the University of Jaffna to serve as their Chancellor on an honorary capacity.
Prof. Sivasuriya is survived by his wife Shanthini and daughter Shivanthini and Dr. Sivaganesh Irony is that this gentle scholar departed from this world on 26 February, the birth date of his loving cousin ‘Annai Mama’. As Professor wished a private cremation with family members present is to take place on 28 February 2019.
“We might not be the ones to change the world. We might not belong to the few that “put a ding in the universe. We might not be something the whole world would celebrate. But…In the little corners that we live; in the lives that we’ve played a part in, we should be nothing but unforgettable.” ― Nesta Jojoe Erskine, Unforgettable: Living a Life That Matters and no doubt Professor Sivasuriya will be unforgettable to many.