Lives of the fellows

Herbert Ivor Obeyesekere

b.4 November 1921 d.19 July 1993
MB BS Ceylon(1946) MB BS Lond(1949) MRCP(1951) MD(1952) FACC(1966) MRACP(1975) FRCP(1976)

Ivor Obeyesekere was born in Sri Lanka, the son of Allanson Herbert Obeyesekere, a civil engineer. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo, then studied medicine at the University of Ceylon. After house officer appointments at the General Hospital, Colombo, he came to the UK and entered Kings College Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1949. He held a post as house physician at Dulwich Hospital before returning to Colombo, where he served at the General Hospital as assistant physician. He was later appointed consultant physician to Kandy Hospital, where he worked from 1954 to 1962. He returned to the General Hospital, Colombo, in 1962, as consultant physician, and from 1965 to 1972 he was physician in charge of the cardiology unit. About that time the Ceylon Health Service was nationalized and it became impossible to hold a public hospital appointment or engage in private practice and maintain research interests which, in Ivor’s case, were pulmonary hypertension and cardiomyopathy. He had published papers on these subjects in the British Heart Journal between 1964 and 1970.

Having decided to leave Sri Lanka, Ivor explored various work possibilities in Australia where, because of his English qualifications, he knew he would have no difficulty in being registered as a medical practitioner. His attitude was flexible, he was prepared ‘to learn on the job’ and he applied outside his particular area of expertise. He had the good fortune, with the help of warm recommendations from English cardiologists, to obtain an appointment in 1972 as paediatric cardiologist at the Queen Victoria Medical Centre in Melbourne, a teaching hospital for Monash University. He recognized that echocardiography had enormous potential in paediatrics and a fellowship was arranged for him, funded by the Felton bequest, which allowed him to study this aspect of cardiology in the USA. He established a paediatric cardiology unit within the Monash University department of paediatrics and also initiated the development of paediatric echocardiography in Melbourne, making positive contributions to the subject. At the same time he continued his interest in viral myocarditis and cardiomyopathy.

He married Charmaine Wickramasinghe in 1947 and they had five daughters. He and his family were very happy in Australia and integrated well, without losing their ties in Sri Lanka where two of their married daughters continue to live. His three younger daughters are contented, well educated, Australians. His wife never regretted the move, which she considered drew the family together because Ivor’s professional duties were less arduous.

Sadly, in 1991 Ivor developed carcinoma of the common bile duct. He responded well to initial surgery but relapsed in 1993 and died after a brief illness.

J Howqua

(Volume X, page 367)

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