Chamila Mettananda (Sri Lanka)

Position: Professor in Pharmacology & Specialist in General Internal Medicine

Affiliation: Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

What is your role at your work?

I am a compassionate clinician in general internal medicine, a clinical pharmacologist, an academic and an enthusiastic researcher from Sri Lanka. I am interested in hypertension management, non-communicable diseases prevention, cardiovascular epidemiology and clinical pharmacology. I am a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the American College of Physicians and the Ceylon College of Physicians. I completed my post-graduate training in Acute General Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK and Stroke research at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford. I completed my PhD in cardiovascular epidemiology under the supervision of Professor Peter Rothwell at the Stroke Prevention Research Unit of the University of Oxford UK in 2017. I am a board-certified specialist in General Medicine and I am currently a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Kelaniya closely working with the Clinical Trials Unit of the University of Kelaniya. I am the Co-chair of the Cardio-respiratory module, Faculty of Medicine. I am a trainer in Clinical Pharmacology and Geriatrics at the Postgraduate training at the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I have around 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals with over 2600 citations. I contribute to the development of National guidelines in hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetes closely working with the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka. I have served as the Secretary of the Board of Study in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, Ceylon College of Physicians, Sri Lankan Association of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and Sri Lankan Society of Internal Medicine and serve actively in the same.

How did you get interested in your career path?

My passion since medical school has been to offer a Nobel clinical service and my interest got towards prevention of cardiovascular diseases with the great exposure I got while working as a Clinical Research Fellow at the Stroke Prevention Research Unit of the University Oxford, UK under the guidance of Professor Peter Rothwell which lead to my PhD in Cardiovascular Epidemiology (2013-2017). I have been involved in multicentre clinical trials since 2006 starting as a junior member of the Clinical Trials Unit of Sri Lanka under the supervision of Professor Asita de Silva and have contributed to ENOS, HeadPost, TRIUMPH and TIDENT trials.

What are you most proud of in your career or otherwise?

My PhD at the Stroke Prevention Research Unit under the supervision of Professor Peter Rothwell was my first major milestone. Getting promoted to the position of Professor in 2019 was also an important step in my career and it allowed me to combine academic, clinical and research work which I have always been fascinated by. I am also happy to have been able to contribute to the clinical governance activities of the Ministry of Health Sri Lanka.

What important career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Time management in spite of my busy schedules at work and at home as a mother of two children is the main challenge I face. Dedication, meticulous organization, empowering juniors and delegation of work to others while supervising them are the main ways I overcome this challenge. The tolerance of my family has helped me massively to overcome the challenges and to achieve my goals.

Obtaining funding and suitable manpower are challenges for research. Recognising opportunities when they arise, and careful utilization is the way forward.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Passion, genuine dedication, commitment and improving your knowledge base is a key to any success. Effective communication while respecting all others for their contribution is a must. Good rapport with juniors, peers and seniors helps you to go far in your career with fewer hurdles!

Highlight your most significant research contributions and publications (3-5) – if relevant to you.

There are no cardiovascular risk prediction models specific to Sri Lankans. I developed a specific risk prediction model for Sri Lankans using 10-year follow-up data of a Sri Lankan cohort using artificial intelligence that can predict future cardiovascular events of Sri Lankans better than the WHO risk charts developed for the Southeast Asia region.

I am currently working on two main projects.

  1. Rolling out a Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) Project in improving blood pressure control in secondary and tertiary care hospitals of Sri Lanka for the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Sri Lanka College of Internal Medicine
  2. Calculation of incidence, prevalence, mortaity and disability-adjusted life years (DALY) rates for Sri Lanka

Have you had any significant career mentors? If yes, please provide further details.

The two great mentors in my life are Professor Janaka de Silva, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Kelaniya who was my MD (medicine) supervisor and Professor Peter Rothwell, founding director of the Wolfson Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and dementia and Action research professor of neurology, University of Oxford, UK who was instrumental in shaping my carrier in medicine.

How can we support the next generation of women scientists?

Women scientists should be considered equal to men. They need to be supported at all stages of their career. Empowering them with knowledge and skills, mentoring and giving active feedback is important for them to shine in their fields.