Dear Members of the Sri Lanka Medical Association,

It was indeed a privilege to hold office as the 126th President of this hallowed institute. My pledge during the Presidential induction held on 18th January 2020 was to take SLMA to even greater heights of achievement and recognition. We had to take the most unexpected pathway when fulfilling that pledge.

The year 2020 was unprecedented. COVID-19 has inflicted an unexpected and unprecedented degree of damage and uncertainty on humanity. During such circumstances, the progress of any organization depends on its ability to incorporate new energies and new ideas to adapt to changing needs and demands. SLMA faced this challenge with vigor, with the combined strength of experience, youthful energy, enthusiasm and novelty that is extraordinary.

As the apex medical association in the country, SLMA has a responsibility to the medical profession and the general public to contribute in its maximum capacity in this fight against COVID-19. SLMA has been relentlessly working with the government authorities, other professional colleges and sectors towards fulfilling this responsibility.

SLMA has taken several initiatives to ensure our membership is updated with accurate and latest information on the global and local situation, prevention and management of COVID-19. The symposium “Novel Coronavirus Infection (nCoV), Wuhan China – Are we ready to face it?” held on Thursday, 30th January 2020, at Lionel Memorial Auditorium of the SLMA was only the start.

The 133rd Anniversary International Medical Congress of the SLMA has become history in making, held as a virtual on-line conference from 24th to 26th July 2020, and webcast worldwide from the historic Wijerama House in Colombo. The congress, previously known as annual sessions, returned to Wijerama House after 20 years. The Congress was aptly themed “Professional Development for Quality Enhancement of Healthcare: Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a complete conference conducted over three days in two parallel venues with all the regular components including the inauguration ceremony keynote address, six guest lectures, eight symposia, two plenaries and culminating with the Doctors’ Concert. For the first time in the history of SLMA, the Keynote Address was delivered online. The 133rd Anniversary International Virtual Medical Conference of the SLMA was a unique blend of tradition and technology in the era of new normal, combining the best of real-life and virtual.

The success of 133rd Anniversary International Medical Congress of the SLMA was an eye opener demonstrating the potential of technology in providing Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in Sri Lanka. In line with one of the main themes of the SLMA’s vision for 2020, “Innovative Application of Technology for Healthcare”, we have taken initiatives to maximize the use of technology to reach out to our membership. All SLMA CPD events are now webcast live for the benefit of those who may not be able to attend in person.

SLMA Foundation sessions, held in hybrid format, were an unprecedented success, with over 700 participants joining online. E.M. Wijerama endowment lecture was held in the hybrid format for the first time in history. SLMA conducted several collaborative activities with international organizations. The first phase of an online CPD programme, conducted in collaboration with the World Bank and Ministry of Health was successfully concluded. Several community capacity projects were conducted in collaboration with the WHO.

There were several international conferences and webinars organized by SLMA during 2020. The APACPH 2020 conference themed “Public Health in the New Normal” was organized by SLMA in collaboration with Asia Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH). The annual conference of Asia Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH) was held from 5th to 9th December 2020. The main conference was held on 08th and 09th December at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo, Sri Lanka, with over 400 participants worldwide joining virtually.

With a catastrophic situation that meant financial crisis for many organizations, SLMA achieved a healthy financial status. This was a remarkable achievement considering that the year started with a negative balance in the general account. This was achieved through collaboration, attention to detail, minimizing wastage, commitment, sacrifices and hard work.

It was the year of digital revolution for SLMA. All conferences were conducted using state-of-the-art technology including virtual and augmented reality. Social media was used to the maximum effect to reach the membership. The number of followers for SLMA Facebook page increased from 9000 to 25000. SLMA YouTube channel achieved the landmark of 1000 subscribers and 50,000 views from just 68 subscribers and 1000 views. Over 400 high quality videos with educational content were added to the YouTube. SLMA online learning platform is now completely populated with content and ready to be launched.

In 2020, SLMA thrived and rose to the occasion, converting the crisis into a blessing in disguise. fulfilling national leadership roles and achieving international recognition. I thank the council, office bearers, past presidents, SLMA staff and all SLMA members for support during this very challenging year.

Professor Indika Karunathilake,
Sri Lanka Medical Association.