The community doctor

Dr Sivarajah is an expert in community medicine and a lecturer at the University of Jaffna. He reflects on the last thirty years of living in Jaffna and how the challenges keep him on the peninsula. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam.


Join the discussion: 4 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    I first met Dr Sivarajah when I was doing a story on a community in Jaffna affected by leprosy. In the early 80s, Dr Sivarajah led a team of doctors to treat a disease that had begun to spiral out of control. I was impressed with his way of approaching life’s challenges and his interesting experiences, and I knew he’d be perfect for the “I am” project.

    Like many people living through the war years in Jaffna, Dr Sivarajah is a survivor. His key to survival has been to always remain neutral. Not an easy thing during a war which has seen different masters of Jaffna. He has challenged the might of the Tamil Tigers and come out winning. Through his sound reasoning, he made them see sense.

    One thing I also wanted to ask Dr Sivarajah about was the Jaffna Tamils’ obsession with doctors. Why did Jaffna Tamils prize medicine above all other professions? My mother – a doctor – was diasappointed when I decided not to follow her career. And why were so many of my relatives doctors? He suggested that one reason could be to do with the belief among many Tamils that the first hospital in Sri Lanka was the hospital started by American missionaries in the town of Manipay. He believed that the Tamils’ link to medicine may have started there. So it took a doctor from Jaffna to explain to me why so many of my uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins, as well as their spouses, living around the world ended up becoming doctors. But despite his own choice of career, Dr Sivarajah is not so impressed with the narrow ambitions of Jaffna Tamils. He felt they needed to expand their horizons a little. I felt my family could learn a lot from this community doctor’s diverse experiences, someone who remained behind to help the people of Jaffna with their unique challenges. Indeed, these challenges are what continues to keep him on the peninsula.

  • Gayathri Naganathan (@Gaya_Naganathan) says:

    Dr. Sivarajah, the community doctor | i am via @iam_project

  • Girish says:

    I really like the “I Am” series, very nice. Such stories or courage & effort deserve this. Wonderful photographs as well.

  • Groundviews (@groundviews) says:

    RT @iam_project: Quick visit to Jaffna. Took time out to meet some elders from series one like Dr Sivarajah at his book launch #lka


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