Another eventful year has passed by and we would like to summarize the events, achievements and work of DoCM in the year 2019.
DoCM academic staff had several important milestones in 2020. Dr.Thilini Agampodi has been promoted to the post of “Professor in Social Epidemiology”, the first female professor in the Rajarata Medical Faculty (back dated to 2019). Dr.Janith Warnasekara has been promoted to the Post of Senior Lecturer Grade II and Dr.Gayani Amarasinghe has also completed the requirements for the same post. Prof. Suneth Agampodi and Prof.Thilini Agampodi returned from Yale University after their sabbatical leave.
Undergraduate teaching and training
The UG training and teaching programme was heavily affected from COVID-19 outbreak. However, the pandemic has opened new doors for annotative training programmes. DoCM has pioneered many online teaching programmes in the faculty and was able to get access to coursera, the largest online learning platform. The free access for coursera enables more than 10,000 hours of learning hours for Rajarata students from top rated global universities. Student research projects from the research in medicine module were presented in Sri Lanka Medical Association and Asia Pacific Conference of Public Health.
Postgraduate teaching and training
The PG training programme has been expanded in 2020 with two PhD upgrades new five new PhD students. Another two MPhil students also started their work. Of them, three are full-time students and others are part-time. Four of these PhDs are with international supervisors and linked to global PhD training programme. The main areas of work include Leptospirosis, Leishmaniasis and Maternal Health.
The research output of DoCM in 2020 included 11 peer reviewed publications in PubMed indexed journals. These publications covered a wide range of important public health topics, including maternal and child health, communicable diseases and mental health. The highlight of the year was the Publication of the Whole Genome of three Sri Lankan Leptospira isolates.
DoCM members and affiliates presented more than 50 conference papers in 2020; the highest number reported so far. These abstracts were presented in the Nutrion 2020, SLMA 2020, APACPH 2020 and CCPSL2020 conferences.
Ongoing research projects
The highlight of the year is the launch of the ECLIPSE Project. This research project enabled four full time PhD degrees and to establish the largest social – epidemiology research programme in Sri Lanka. The Rajarata Pregnancy Cohort has completed the delivery data collection and contributed to more than half of the reserch output this year. In addition, the ‘Vender Intervention’ project to reduce suicides in North Central Province is ongoing. Leptospirosis research project (ICIDR Grant) received additional funding for capacity building and field work until February 2020.
Awards and recognitions
Year 2020 marked one of the best achieving years for DoCM members with numerous national and international awards. The best among those was the prestigious E M Wijerama Award – for the best paper in the 133rd Anniversary International Medical Congress of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. In the same conference Sir Nicholas Attygalle Award – for the best paper was also awarded to the researchers from DoCM. In the 25th Annual Academic Sessions of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka (CCPSL), three awards for best papers in the sessions and the beast oral and poster presentations were also awarded to DoCM members. Two PhD students/DoCM members were awarded the Young Investigator Award in the Asia Pacific Conference of Public Health. The best Research Paper award in the Annual Academic Sessions of Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist was aso won by a DoCM MPhil trainee in 2020.
DoCM work has lead to several policy briefs in 2020. Three of these policy briefs are from the Rajarata Pregnancy Cohort and one from the ongoing work on responsive feeding. All these policy documents were handed over to the main stakeholders and few of the policies are already in the process of changing.
COVID-19 responce ..
As a part of our public health service programme, DoCM has been extensively involved in COVID-19 activities. In January 2020, the public awareness was initiated and DoCM published one of the first local language post on COVID-19 with more than 17,000 page engagements and 5.6K shares in social media. DoCM continued to update the public on COVID-19 with interactive dashboard for daily updates. Of the many COVID-19 related activities, a mental health promotion activity was also launched by the department to support mental well-being during the pandemic.
Year 2021 will be one of the most challenging year for the department with the ongoing pandemic and four major projects going on with more than 40 external project members. Virtual teaching and finding new ways of undergraduate engagement in distance and online learning will be a top priority this year. Another major focus would be transforming the cutting edge research work to policies to contribute to better health status of Sri Lankans. AT the same time, scientific communication in high impact journals would be a challenge specially with limitations of APC. Expansion of research agenda, PG training and the curriculum will add an additional burden of work. However, the department will continue to focus on achieving and maintaining international standards while facilitating others to do so.