Lives of the fellows

Mavathage Oliver Robert Medonza

b.30 September 1913 d.1 June 1991
LMS Ceylon(1939) MRCP(1952) MD(1952) FRCP(1969) FCCP(1979)

Oliver Robert Medonza was educated at St Benedict’s College and University College, Colombo, and subsequently entered Ceylon Medical College in 1934. On graduation he was placed first in the first class honours list, with distinctions in medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology. After a brief period in the Medical Department (as the health service in Ceylon was then called) he served as a commissioned officer in the Ceylon Medical Corps during the second world war, from September 1941-May 1946. His last posting was to Manipur, in India, for training as an Army medical specialist. He was awarded the Defence Medal, the War Medal and the Burma Star.

On demobilization he was appointed to the General Hospital in Colombo, as research assistant to P B Fernando [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.128] the first professor of medicine in the University of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was associated with P B Fernando in his work on cirrhosis of the liver in Ceylon and its relation to diet. Three years later he came to Britain for postgraduate studies. In 1952 he obtained his membership of the College and on his return to Ceylon was awarded his MD (Ceylon) and posted to the General Hospital, Colombo, where he remained until his retirement in 1973. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1969.

During his tenure as senior consultant physician at the General Hospital he showed himself to be a very able and dedicated physician who was much sought after as a consultant. His patients found his bedside manner, his patience and his cheerful rapport with them very reassuring and he was an inspiration to students attending his ward classes. He was gifted with the knack of making a quick and correct bedside diagnosis and was essentially a clinician, using fundamental principles and calling on laboratory aides only when they were relevant and necessary.

Medonza was elected president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association for the year 1972 and was a Trustee of the Ceylon College of Physicians. He also found time to serve as secretary of the Sri Lanka Medical Library and was later appointed president of the Sri Lanka Medical Council.

He had many interests outside medicine and lived a full and active life from his student days. As a medical student he had played in the first XI of the Ceylon Medical College cricket team and was also captain of the tennis team. In his later years he found relaxation in a game of billiards or contract bridge. He had a wide circle of friends, drawn from all walks of life. The simplicity of his life style was very striking and this aspect of his character surfaced when he took up the study of Pali (the language in which the Buddhist canon was composed in the 5th century BC) while continuing to cope with a busy professional life. He wished to study Buddhism in depth and he left to posterity the fruits of his labours in 'A line by line translation in Singhalese and English of the Dhammapada'.

During his retirement his activities became restricted when his wife Swarnapali sustained a disabling fracture of her hip. In the evening of his life he confined himself to his family and the friends who called on him. He knew the end was round the corner and faced it philosophically, leaving behind his beloved wife, a daughter and two sons.

E H Mirando

[Ceylon med.J., 1991,36,177-78;Lancet, 1948,2,205-11]

(Volume IX, page 359)

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