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Professor Nihal Gurusinghe Reflects on receiving an MBE
  • Jul 12, 2023
  • Latest News

The Expert Witness Directory would like to congratulate RCSEd Fellow and Consultant Neurosurgeon Professor Nihal Gurusinghe on receiving an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours List, which recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK.

Professor Gurusinghe shares what this means to him, and talks about his career to date alongside the work he has done with The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

I am so overwhelmed and proud to receive an MBE in the King Charles III’s New Year Honours List 2023 in recognition of my contribution to Charitable Services. This is not just a personal achievement because many dedicated people have helped my aims and I would like to share this honour with all those who support my work to help others.

Apart from my work as a consultant neurosurgeon, I am very closely involved in serving 2 registered charities. I founded the Sydney Driscoll Neuroscience Foundation (SDNF) in 1989 along with Andrew Ferguson, a local lawyer who is now the Chair, and we are the longest serving members of the Foundation. The idea was to provide a resource to support high quality training for doctors and nurses working in the Neurosciences, and they in turn would serve the community with the expertise achieved. It is a registered charity named after a grateful patient whose widow donated a very large sum of money and is based at the Royal Preston Hospital where I work. The SDNF is governed by a Board of Trustees, and we have a particular focus on brain cancer research. In 2018, we set up a collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire for brain cancer research and I chair the Oversight Group of this project. We also fund the Brain Tumour Tissue Bank at Preston, a fully equipped Neuroscience library, the SDNF annual Award and the annual Neuroscience lecture delivered by an eminent neuroscientist.

I also have a leading role on the Trust Board of the Midland International Buddhist Association (MIBA) as well as the International Buddhist Relief Organisation (IBRO) since they began in 1986. These are based at the Buddhist temple in Handsworth, Birmingham, and are led by Venerable Reverend Witharandeniye Kassapa OBE. I work very closely with the Reverend to deliver the activities and aims of both organisations. This wonderful facility, although located in a much-deprived area of the city, is not only a place of worship for Buddhists of many nationalities but also a focal centre for a multi-cultural community with a common aim of serving others. IBRO provides relief for victims of natural disasters such as the tsunami in Asia, as well as sightless persons and refugees of conflicts and disasters all over the world.

I qualified as a doctor in Sri Lanka and came over to the UK in 1975 to pursue a career in neurosurgery. I was extremely fortunate in achieving this goal, and was the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as consultant neurosurgeon in the UK. I served as the Honorary Secretary of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons (SBNS) from 2000-2005 and have been on the Executive since then, with my current role being to coordinate with NICE to facilitate the development of guidelines relating to neurosurgical practice.

Neurosurgery as a career can be challenging at times, but the evolution of amazing technology and the precision of the discipline is a wonderful fulfilment. I have worked with so many dedicated and talented colleagues, and shared their wisdom and commitment to enhance my role as a neurosurgeon and a trainer. I am closely involved with and encouraged the founding of the Sri Lanka Neurosurgical Association, and many of the colleagues have had a period of training at Preston.

I am hugely proud of being a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. It is a wonderful privilege and rewarding experience to support the College as part of my contribution to neurosurgical practice and training in the UK and elsewhere. My roles include being an examiner for the FRCS in neurosurgery (UK and international). I have also served as examiner and College assessor for the conjoint FRCS between the College, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Hong Kong and the University of Singapore. I served as a member of the Surgical Advisory Board (Neurosurgery) from 2004-2008, and was Chair of the Board from 2008-2012. I continued in my role as a member of the renamed Specialty Surgical Board until 2022. I was also the Joint Royal College representative on the Specialist Advisory Committee for Neurosurgery from 2004 -2012, and the Liaison member for Scotland during this period. When the Surgeons’ Hall Museums were redesigned and developed, I helped the setting up of the neurosurgery section.

Time is the most precious asset we have, but it is so important to share some of it to help others. I read the poem below by Leigh Hunt as a young medical student, and it has been a constant source of inspiration in my life.

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold:—

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the presence in the room he said,

"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blest,

And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.