Professor Shan Ratnam – a fantastic record of work

rathnam.jpg (18445 bytes)The Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecolo-gists is having the Shan Ratnam Memorial Seminar on the subject Recent Advances in Obstetrics and Gynaecology today, March 7, 2003 at the Hotel Ceylon Continental at 7 pm.

Professor S. S. Ratnam died recently at the age of 73. Professor Ratnam was born in Sri Lanka in 1928 and had his entire undergraduate medical education in this country. He graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1957 from the University of Colombo. After a brief spell in Sri Lanka he took a decisive step to migrate out of this country to Singapore. This was our loss and Singapore’s gain.

There he took to his lifelong love of Obstetrics and Gynaeco-logy and he joined the University O&G Department long before he obtained his higher degree of professional certification as a specialist. In retrospect he was glad he had made this move and was able to reaffirm his former professor’s words ‘You get the satisfaction of giving if you become an academic. You will live to see your students doing well in leading institutions, this is the sort of satisfaction you cannot get from curing patients’.

He obtained his M.R.C.O.G in 1964. In 1970 he was appointed to the coveted post of Professor and Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Singapore, a post which he held for 25 years.

Prof. Ratnam was in the forefront of reproductive biology and won worldwide acclaim for his work. He gave Asia its first test tube baby through invitro fertilization process in 1983. In 1987 Asia’s first baby born from a frozen embryo, and in 1991 the world’s first micro injection baby via human ampullary coculture.

In 1970 he pioneered a technique for sex change operations and wrote a book ‘Cries From Within’ explaining his work. In spite of his connections and renown in Singapore and in many parts of the world he did not forfeit his connections in Sri Lanka where he did his initial medical training and where he was born and where a number of his relations are still living and occupying prominent positions in the country.

Our College conferred its fellowship to Professor Ratnam in 1992 and he was awarded the DSc from the University of Colombo in 1993.

I myself had the privilege of teaching him some Obstetrics and Gynaecology when I was Registrar at the De Soysa Hospital and he was a student. Some years later when I attended an updating session in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Singapore I met him again. He was then a formidable figure in the O&G world and conducted the sessions with tremendous energy and knowledge and we who attended this benefited greatly from his teaching and instruction. Mr. Bradman Weerakoon, former Secretary General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation said of him "Inspired by deep compassion for mankind, Professor Ratnam gave devotedly of his time and services on a totally voluntary basis. He was a valued member of the medical advisory panel and on the decision making bodies of the federation. His meticulously composed expert contribution to the medical field, his polished and refined reflections on policy matters and his sartorial elegance are indelible impressions of a most distinguished man of our time."

Our Dr. P. R. Anthonis said "ability to unite the scientific c precision to the tenderness of great humanitarian and friend is outstanding. I mentioned with pride that he has brought great credit to Sri Lanka especially in the intellectual and scientific sphere, both in the land of his birth, Sri Lanka and the land of his adoption - Singapore."

He has a fantastic record of work done. He had to his credit 378 research papers in refereed International Journals, 232 in refereed local and regional journals and 19 non refereed journals. He had written a total of 93 chapters in books and presented 502 conference papers. Prof. Ratnam delivered 91 guest lectures and 14 endowed orations.

Prof. Ratnam in spite of his conglomerate of star achievements, as stated in the citation for his DSc from the University of Colombo, has remained faithful to his Alma Mater in Sri Lanka. Many are the times when he has functioned as an examiner in our University, many are the times when he visited Sri Lanka to stimulating various professional activities. As the citation further stated "it was both a pride as well as a pleasure to see the small made, friendly, helpful unassuming professional giant stride nonchalantly across our faculty quadrangle, unpretentious but dignified, as if the four decades that separated him from his mother faculty are but a single dreamful night".

When he heard that I was ill a few years ago he asked me to come with my wife and son and stay with him in Singapore. I went there and not only enjoyed his hospitality, he went out of his way to take me to the hospital and had me examined by a top Oncologist about follow up therapy. It is indeed tragic that he should be dead now while we are still here.

To end with his own words "I’ve had a good innings, very satisfactory, I can’t be more thankful to God".

It is therefore out of our respect for an outstanding man who never forgot his Sri Lankan connections that we are having this seminar in his name with Desamanya Dr. P. R. Anthonis, his teacher and mentor as Chief Guest.
Dr. Nalin Rodrigo,
Sri Lanka College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.