In 1977, Mr. Ronnie de Mel, the Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for Devinuwara initiated the establishment of a University in Ruhuna. The Ruhuna University College was declared opened by the President, J. R. Jayawardene in 1978 at Meddawatte, Matara. In April1979, the Faculty of Medicine was officially gazetted.
90 students for the Faculty of Medicine, Ruhuna were selected in June 1979. They were sent to the Colombo and Peradeniya medical faculties for the second MBBS course – 40 to Colombo and 50 to Peradeniya. The General Hospital, Mahamodera was designated as the hospital for clinical teaching and construction of buildings was initiated on a site at Karapitiya that was selected by an advisory committee chaired by Prof. M. B. Ariyapala.
Various academic positions were advertised in October 1979 and selection was made by December. Professor Wickramanayake accepted the post as he was already the Co-ordinator. Later, Prof. S. P. Lamabadusuriya, Prof. Gervin Samarawickrema, Prof. Neil Fonseka and Prof. J. Hettiarachchi (in 1980), Prof. D. J. B. Perera, Prof. Niriellage Chandrasiri and Prof. Anoja Fernando (in 1981), and Prof. Asoka Gunasekera and Prof. Darrel Wijeratne (in 1982) were appointed to the posts of professors (chair) of Pediatrics, Community Medicine, Surgery, Medicine, Pathology, Forensic Medicine, Pharmacology, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Anatomy, respectively. On the recommendation of the advisory committee, the UGC gazette that Parasitology, Microbiology and Forensic Medicine would be sub-departments in the Department of Pathology, Pharmacology a sub-department of the Department of Physiology and Psychiatry a sub-department of the Department of Medicine.
By June 1980, selection of lecturers to the pre-clinical, para-clinical and clinical departments commenced. Dr. K. Amarathunge, Dr. S. G. de Silva and Dr. L. A. W. Sirisena were seconded to the faculty by the Department of Health Services for a period of two years as Senior Lecturers in Pathology, Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology, respectively. Dr. Seetha Hettiarachchi, Dr. Susirith Mendis and Dr. Chandrika Perera (in 1980) were appointed as pioneer members of the departments of Parasitology (sub-department), Physiology and Microbiology (sub-department). Subsequently, Dr. B. Panagamuwa as Senior Lecturer in Surgery and Dr. K. M. H. Perera as Lecturer in Physiology were also appointed in 1980. Dr. T. Ruberu, Dr. Ranjith Jayawardene, Dr. K. Amaratunga and Dr. P. L. Ariyananda were recruited as Senior Lecturers in Community Medicine, Psychiatry, Pathology and Medicine, respectively in 1982.
The Ruhuna Faculty of Medicine commenced its function in renovated buildings in the General Hospital, Mahamodera. Since the space was insufficient, Dr. F. S. C. Kalpage, Chairmen UGC and Secretary, Ministry of Higher Education in consultation with the coordinator, Prof. T. W. Wickramanayake, selected Mr. Justin Samarasekara as architect to construct a two-story building to house a lecture theatre, a library and the Pathology department on the upper floor and three clinic rooms and the canteen on the ground floor within the Mahamodera hospital premises.
An abandoned two storied building-the former nurse’s quarters was to be renovated for the offices of the Dean, Senior Assistant Bursar and Assistant Registrar and rooms for the teachers in the four clinical departments.
Another abandoned building – a former paying ward on the sea front – was reconditioned as a second lecture theatre and laboratories for Parasitology and Microbiology. Two abandoned wards were to be renovated for the University Medical and Surgical Units. The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology was to be housed in the existing hospital building, sharing the wards with the other consultants. Dr. D. V. J. Harischandra Consultant Psychiatrist, Galle was willing to share his ward at the Psychiatry Hospital, Unawatuna with Dr. Ranjith Jayawardana who had been selected to the post of Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry.
The official inauguration of the Faculty was in July 1980. By this time the first batch of students had completed their 2nd MBBS Examinations at Colombo and Peradeniya medical faculties, and the 2nd batch had been registered as students to commence their first year of medical studies at Colombo and Peradeniya.
It was felt that a Dean should be appointed who could represent the faculty in the university council. Accordingly the Director of the University College summoned a meeting of the teachers who had taken up appointment – thus convening the first meeting of the faculty board on 28th July 1980 at 10.30am in the Administration Block of the Faculty at the General Hospital, Mahamodera. The meeting was preceded by a simple ceremony to inaugurate the faculty which included the traditional lightning of the oil lamp. The Superintendent of Health Services (SHS), Galle and hospital specialists attended the inauguration. The members present included Dr. J. Hettiarachchi, Dr. S. P. Hettiarachchi, Prof. S. P. Lamabadusuriya, Dr. B. Panagamuwa, Dr. S. W. Gunasekera and Prof. T. W. Wickremanayake. Mr. M. Fonseka, Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ruhuna University College, was in attendance. The main item on the agenda was the election of the Dean. There were only four persons who were entitled to vote, as most of the teachers present were seconded and therefore temporary. The Director proposed and Dr. Seetha Hettiarachchi seconded the name of Prof. T. W. Wickramanayaka for the post of Dean. Thus, Prof. Wickramanayake was elected uncontested as the Founder Dean of the Faculty.
A total of 79 students who had successfully completed the 2nd MBBS Examinations held at Colombo and Peradeniya in July 1980, were ready to move to Galle in August. They were admitted for the third year in November 1980. Since then the faculty has admitted more batches than its years of existence having admitted the 43rd batch of students in March 2021.
“History of Ruhuna Medical Faculty 1980-2005″ authored by Prof. Susirith Mendis, published by the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna as a commemorative publication of its 25th anniversary, January 2006.