The Siri Wickremesinghe Oration was held on Tuesday 16th February 2019, at the Liberty Ballroom, Ramada Colombo.
The Orator was Professor Nilanthi De Silva, Senior Professor & Cadre Chair Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya.
The topic of the oration was “Worms and Disease: Demonstrating The Impact of Soil-Transmitted Helminths on Health and Well-Being”
Prof Nilanthi Renuka de Silva had her primary and secondary education at CMS Ladies College, Colombo. She graduated MBBS from the University of Colombo in 1986. She went on to obtain a Masters in Medical Parasitology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, followed by MD and Board Certification in Medical Parasitology, from Colombo University’s Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. She was a Commonwealth Fellow at the Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases in the University of Oxford, UK in 1995/96, and a FAIMER Fellow at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington DC, USA, in 2004/05.
After a brief stint as a lecturer in Parasitology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya in 1991-93, Prof de Silva moved to the newly established Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya in Ragama in 1993. She has held the cadre chair there since 2003, and is now the Senior Professor of Parasitology. The main focus of her research has been on soil-transmitted helminth infections and other neglected tropical diseases. She has published extensively in this field, in peer-reviewed scientific journals including the Lancet, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology, Tropical Medicine & International Health, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Ceylon Medical Journal. She has over 5,700 citations of her work on Google Scholar and an h-index of 29.
In addition to her work as a medical parasitologist, Prof de Silva has also pursued a long-standing interest in the education of medical and other health professionals, and quality assurance in Higher Education. She served as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya from 2012 to 2018, and headed the Internal Quality Assurance Unit of the University of Kelaniya from 2010 to date. She has supported the PGIM of the University of Colombo as a member of the Board of Study in Microbiology, the Speciality Board in Medical Education, the Academic Affairs, Accreditation and Examinations Committee, and the Board of Management. She is a member of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, and currently serves as its Vice-President. She was a member of the UGC’s Standing Committee on Medical & Dental Sciences from 2009 to 2018 and is currently a member of the Standing Committee on Quality Assurance.
Prof de Silva has been a member of the Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists for over 20 years, serving as the President of the College in 2014/2015. She is an expert advisor on Neglected Tropical Diseases to the World Health Organization, serving both WHO Headquarters and the South East Asia Regional Office in many different capacities since 2000. She has served in a similar advisory capacity to other international entities, including the Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College London; Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative in Geneva, Switzerland; and the International Task Force for Disease Eradication at the Carter Centre in Atlanta, USA. She has served as an Associate Editor for PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases since it was first launched as an Open Access journal in 2007.