Photo (left to right): Drs Sayuri Jinadasa, Ashanti Ratnasekera.and Tanya Egodage. - Photo: 2023

Sri Lankan Women Upstage Male Dominance in Trauma Surgery in the US

By Razeena Raheem

NEW YORK (IDN) — In a highly-competitive profession dominated largely by men, three young Sri Lankan women in their thirties are making a name for themselves as trauma surgeons specializing in emergency surgeries on people who’ve had a critical injury or illness.

All three—Dr Sayuri Jinadasa, Dr Ashanthi Ratnasekera and Dr Tanya Egodage—are subspecialist surgeons in the field of Acute Care Surgery (ACS), which includes general emergency surgery, and surgical critical care, in hospitals in three US states, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia.

As one of them pointed out, “finding other Sri Lankan trauma surgeons in this field in the US is like finding a needle in a haystack”—even if the haystack is smaller and the needle larger.

“We take care of a wide range of surgical patients, including those who are critically ill with acute surgical emergencies, traumatic injuries, and organ failure. In order to be an Acute Care Surgeon, we must be double board-certified in general surgery and surgical critical care,” said Sayuri Jinadasa, MD MPH.

“My parents came to the US from Sri Lanka in the 1970s. I was born in New Jersey and lived in Rahway, New Jersey, through high school. I did my undergraduate degree in chemistry at Princeton University in New Jersey from 2004-2008 and graduated magna cum laude.”

Since age 5, she said, she wanted to become a doctor, so she went to medical school from 2008-2012 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, where she earned her MD.

“I did my residency training in general surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, from 2012-2020. During my residency, I spent three years fully dedicated to clinical research in critical care and obtained my Master of Public Health at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.”

Once she completed her residency, she did a fellowship in surgical critical care from 2020-2022 and now works as an attending Acute Care Surgeon at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

The three doctors share similar philosophical, family, and medical values. “We are looking forward to collaborating on research projects within the US and Sri Lanka, and I am grateful to have them as mentors and friends.”

Tanya Egodage, MD, FACS, is a trauma surgeon at Cooper University Health Care, through which she holds multiple roles in addition to her clinical role. “I am triple board certified in (1) General Surgery, (2) Surgical Critical Care, and (3) Neurocritical Care. I am interested in conducting research to improve care for injured patients.”

Through this effort, she has received a $91,000 grant to investigate the epigenetics of frailty through her university (to look at how changes to someone’s DNA affect how patients perform after an injury).

“I recently received a scholarship from a national trauma organization to further this work. I am the site-Principal Investigator for several research endeavors, including some for which we will receive several hundred thousand dollars (federal and other funding).”

“I am also the current Medical Director of Cooper’s Violence Intervention Program, for which we have received both state and federal funds to implement and expand (the state of New Jersey and the Department of Justice.”

She was featured on a local radio station to discuss this work and serves as the Associate Program Director for Surgical Critical Care Fellowship, which chooses and trains surgeons to specialize in trauma surgery and critical care of surgical patients.

“It is not forgotten to me that I am a Sri Lankan and am interested in giving back to our lovely nation.  I had the opportunity to come to Sri Lanka and work with some local physicians to perform bleeding control courses (Stop the Bleed) several years ago– courses which are taught by the American College of Surgeons.  I look forward to helping the local surgeons in Sri Lanka to further the amazing work they are doing.”

Asanthi Ratnasekera DO FACS, was born and raised in Ja Ela, Sri Lanka.

“My family migrated to the US when I was 13 years old when my father passed away suddenly. I went to high school in Northern High School in Durham, NC. After I graduated, I did a biology major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, for four years. I did not get into medical school right away from university, so I took one year off to work. I was then accepted to medical school at Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee and was in their inaugural class. I knew I wanted to be a surgeon when I was a medical student doing my surgical clerkship rotations in a rural hospital in Tennessee.”

She said she was absolutely amazed by the surgeons she worked with, “who opened my world to the wonders of being a surgeon and how to help people in their most dire moments”.

“I was then accepted to a surgical residency program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Stratford, New Jersey, where I spent five years doing surgical residency training. I then realized that I loved trauma surgery because trauma surgeons took care of the most critical patients and were fearless in the face of the most critically injured and ill patients,” she said.

As trauma surgeons, “we also have to be fellowship trained in surgical critical care. Therefore, I went back to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond to complete a one-year surgical critical care fellowship. As trauma surgeons, we are double-board certified in general surgery and critical care. I cannot see myself doing anything else but this”.

“As for my fellow Sri Lankan women trauma surgeons, we collaborate in research, and we mentor each other since it is a highly male-dominated field with a low number of minority women surgeons.”

“I am very lucky to have them in my life. We recently got together at a trauma conference which is where we took that photo! One of our future goals is to collaborate with surgeons in Sri Lanka on trauma systems advancement in Sri Lanka. I think there’s a lot that we can learn from each other,” she declared. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 February 2023]

Photo (left to right): Drs Sayuri Jinadasa, Ashanti Ratnasekera.and Tanya Egodage.

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