“I learned to lead by example and to earn each other’s trust. This helped me become self-disciplined – a key element not only in my personal life, but also in my career life as a doctor. I learnt that in order to overcome obstacles, a lot of discipline, hard work, patience and commitment was necessary. I am extremely grateful to Royal Institute for teaching us the value of all cultures and religions, which proves its importance today more than then.”
Dr. Ruwini Dassanayake
General Practitioner at Collegiate Medical Centre – Manchester, UK
- What memories would you like to recall about your toddler years at Royal Institute?
I joined Royal Institute in Grade two and was there until I completed my A Levels. I was in Brunei before, and yet had a very smooth transition to this new school in a different country. I made friends very quickly and most of us are still in touch. Among many recollections I hold is one joyful memory; it makes me happy even today. Every morning before the first school bell, we get together and play games, and then dash into the classroom so that we would not get pulled up by the teachers. The others that I vividly recall are the Christmas Carols and Bhakti Gee. Such joyous occasions, and I simply loved them. Also, I am extremely grateful to Royal Institute for teaching us the value of all cultures and religions, which proves its importance today more than then, as I live away from Sri Lanka – in the UK.
2. You were loved by every teacher; was it for your academic excellence, character traits or any other special feature?
Well, my teachers would agree that I was quite obedient as a student and certainly they loved me for that. If they were ever strict, it was for my betterment. I felt they all loved me for the fact that I was very hard-working; they knew how much time and effort I would put into my academic work. As the school anthem goes: the school is our alma mater, I just have a lot of respect for all my teachers.
3.Were you engaged in any extra-curricular activity?
At my primary school in Nugegoda, I did a lot of singing in concerts and was also involved with the Arts Club, which I found to be a place to free my mind and explore my creativity. I am still grateful to them for allowing me to engage – I was never a good artist, but I loved it. I still have two of my artworks in the living room back at my home. Every time I go back to Sri Lanka, I think about my Arts teacher and all the fun we had in the Arts Club, after school. In the latter years, when I was at the Havelock Town branch, I enjoyed playing sports and took part in the Sports Meet. It helped me find a good balance between work and play, which was a steppingstone for me.
4.What opportunities did you receive at Royal Institute to enhance leadership skills?
When I was at Havelock Town, I was chosen to be a Prefect. I took it seriously because that was how it was instilled in us by our teachers and principals, from a very young age. I learned to lead by example and to earn each other’s trust. This helped me become self-disciplined – a key element not only in my personal life, but also in my career life as a doctor. Participation in Sports Meets helped me develop team spirit as well as leadership skills. In order to be a successful leader, you’ve got to be a good team member.
5.You have certainly succeeded in striking a healthy balance between academic activities and extra activities; how did you manage them so well?
Being at Royal Institute meant that as a child, I did not have to waste my time and energy on private tuition. This enabled me to have ample leisure time to engage in extra-curricular activities, games and sports. Therefore, I found studying very enjoyable and never strenuous. Teachers at Royal Institute, especially at Primary and Secondary levels, encouraged us to try out one activity or another instead of restricting us. That made our days at Royal Institute an enjoyable experience for us students.
6.Studying medicine – was it your childhood dream?
Well, I am not quite sure if it had been my childhood dream, but it was certainly a career aspiration that slowly grew over time. From my childhood, I was quite fascinated by the function of the human body. With all due respect to all my Biology teachers, I found Biology as well as Chemistry very interesting. I also liked the aspect of helping people when they are in pain. And I quite enjoy the challenges that are faced while working as a doctor, and these challenges make me happy to go to work every day.
7.How have self-commitment and support from school helped you realize your dream of being a doctor?
First of all, I would like to thank my teachers. Without their guidance and encouragement, I would not have been able to realize my full potential although my parents supported me in every step of the way. It wasn’t easy getting through all hurdles. I learnt that in order to overcome these, a lot of discipline, hard work, patience and commitment was necessary. This is something that you are taught in school and I am grateful to Royal Institute for instilling that in us from childhood.
8.How satisfying is your profession?
I very much enjoy being a doctor. Yes, we all do have our bad days, but let me say that overall, it has been a wonderful experience. I think it gives you the privilege to help people in the most difficult times of their lives. And it is not just about giving medication, it is also about how we can help people meet the challenges they face; it is to support and uplift their emotional needs. Like I said earlier, I embrace the challenges that my job offers. Apart from the clinical patient contact time, it also gives us opportunity for research, teaching and managerial roles.
9.There are many students who work really hard to be a doctor one day; what is your advice to them?
I think choosing a career path is a difficult task and it is also a defining moment for an individual. I think the most important is that, if they consider being a doctor, they have to make sure that it is the right choice for them, and certainly not because the others expect them to be one. It is a lot difficult; you have to be very hard working, resilient and compassionate. So, it all starts from your childhood. If anyone is interested in becoming a doctor, I suggest that they have some experience in a hospital or a nursing home. Perhaps, get some voluntary experience at an elders’ home to have a better understanding of what they are getting into. If I may say all in a single line, “Find something that you love doing, invest your time and energy in it and give it your best.”