President’s Message

Professor Arosha Dissanayake

It is with utmost humility that I pen this message as the 46th President of the Ceylon College of Physicians. The CCP was established in 1967 when 12 eminent physicians met together at the then General Hospital Colombo. As we enter its 55th year, the CCP remains the premier academic professional organization for physicians in the country. Today we have, in our midst, general internal medicine specialists as well as physicians from all finer specialties. We also have other specialists such as psychiatrists, pathologists and paediatricians with representation in the council. We also have associate members who have passed the entry examination in MD medicine and are currently trainees at registrar and senior registrar levels. Deriving strength from both, academic and professional eminence of its fellows and members, the CCP is uniquely placed to guide patient care and act, as the thought leader in defining the future direction of healthcare in Sri Lanka. Turning to the present, I believe we are all, cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. Though virus variants appear on a frequent basis ever expanding our knowledge on the Greek alphabet, with wide vaccination coverage, we may be able to resume greater personal interaction whilst retaining the wonders we claimed through online gathering. Whilst retaining our new gains, we set out to recapture past glories of the CCP.

My personal mission in medicine has been simple. I wanted to become a good doctor. None of the lectures I attended, none of the books I read, could give me a clear, precise answer on how to get there. Obviously there are many good doctors around, but how to get there I believe one had to discover one’s own truth. I have spent hours observing the good doctors, trying to learn. The doctors whom the patients would say, just seeing the doctor made them feel well. Is that possible? What is the quality that the good doctor has which can make these miracles happen? Hence I have been on a lifelong quest to identify which attributes go to make good doctor. And I share those thoughts with you.

The first attribute is, Technical prowess, the possession of uptodate knowledge about illnesses and treatment, bedside medical examination skills, ability to perform relevant diagnostic and therapeutic procedures

The Second attribute is, Analytical thinking, the ability to understand and solve complex problems, that is to analyze the problems in order to arrive at a comprehensive differential diagnosis, determine most suitable tests and instituting patient centered care

The third attribute is Communication skills, the ability to understand the told and untold stories of patients. Doctors need to communicate with patients, families, colleagues and other staff in the medical setting. Our successes and failures depend on how well we communicate. An often made mistake in communication is, to limit it to, imparting information. Communication includes how we look at patients, how we smile and put them at ease, how we listen to their stories and not merely take histories, being empathetic, being able to understand how patients think and feel, being a friend to them whom they can approach to discuss their innermost worries, and make them feel that the doctor has their best interests at heart. As John Stone, contemporary poet and cardiologist pens in his celebrated poem Gaudeamus Igitur, “For you may need to strain to hear the voice of the patient in the thin reed of his crying, for you will learn to see most acutely out of the corner of your eye, to hear best with your inner ear”. This is the communication and comfort the patients seek from doctors.

These were indeed the three attributes I had identified as making up the core of a good doctor. But over the past two years, as we grappled with the greatest of challenges doctors of our times have faced, with the COVID pandemic, I came to recognize the existence of a fourth attribute or a fourth dimension. That is resilience.

Resilience means the capacity to see through difficult times and recover quickly. The physicians who handled the pandemic better had greater resilience. As Epictetus, the slave turned philosopher wrote in ‘Enchiridion’, the most important thing is our ability to understand that external events are not under our control but we control how we respond to them. We could always look to survive a crisis, battled and bruised. But resilience means not just survival, but coming out of the tragedy with a greater set of skills, a greater ability to face up to similar situations in the future. In effect to become better than we were, before the pandemic. As Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman emperor and philosopher wrote, in ‘Meditations’, impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way, becomes the way.

The challenge before the CCP is to draw up an action plan to align its year ahead with the attributes of a good doctor. Towards this endeavour, an intense and an ambitious action plan has been designed under the CCP theme for 2022, “Crossing divides and bridging gaps”. I invite you all to walk the journey with us, supporting the council in all our activities, participating as both resource persons and the attentive audience. By the time 2023 dawns, I hope we will be able to look back at the strides CCP took in 2022 and rejoice.