From a childhood spent playing marbles and climbing trees in Ceylon to a medical career in bustling Singapore, Dr K. Puvanendran’s experiences have been rich and varied. A leading neurologist, he counts kings and presidents among his former patients. This charmingly written autobiography traces the trajectory of his life against the changing landscapes of two vastly different countries.
As a boy in Jaffna, Dr Puvanendran found imaginative ways to fill his time. He recounts with great relish the carefree pranks, adventures and school experiences. Woven into the evocation of these simple pleasures are also sobering glimpses of the darker periods in Ceylon’s history.
After attending medical college in Colombo, Dr Puvanendran stayed in Ceylon to work before accepting a position at Outram Road General Hospital, now Singapore General Hospital, in 1971. As the narrative unfolds, we read about the roots of his interest in neurology, the highs and lows of his career, the doctors who inspired him and the most memorable medical cases from his fifty years of practice. Some of these intriguing cases include sleep-related crimes, for which he has testified in court as a local pioneer in sleep medicine.
Dr Puvanendran’s story takes us through the old world of Ceylon and into the heady post-independence days of Majulah Singapura (“Onward Singapore”, as the national anthem proclaims), offering along the way a successful doctor’s take on the study and practice of medicine.
Dr Puvanendran was born in Jaffna in 1937. He completed his undergraduate training in medicine at the University of Colombo in 1962 and earned his membership and fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in London in 1968 and 1986 respectively. He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. At Singapore General Hospital (S.G.H.), Dr. Puvanendran has held the positions of Senior Consultant and Associate Professor of Neurology. He has been awarded the “Invaluable Services Award” by the Singapore Ministry of Health, “Long Service Award” by S.G.H., and “Lifetime Achievement & Contribution to Neurology” by the ASEAN Neurological Association. A local pioneer of the science of sleep and sleep disorders, he founded the Sleep Disorder Unit at S.G.H. and the Singapore Sleep Society. Other past leadership positions include presidency of the Singapore Society of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Singapore Epileptic Society, and the 27th International Epileptic Congress. Over the course of his career, he has taught 42 batches of medical students and published more than 150 scientific publications and discourses. Dr. Puvanendran’s interests include tennis, photography, music, and literature. He is married to an anaesthetist and has two daughters, who are both doctors, as well as four grandchildren.
Mr S R Nathan, former president of Singapore, completed his second and last term of office at the end of August 2011. Before he was elected president in 1999, he had an illustrious career in the Singapore Public Service, overseeing various portfolios in his 50-year career and spanning the fields of labour welfare and foreign relations.
Mr Nathan is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Singapore Management University (SMU), as well as at the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and at NTU. He is also chairman of the CapitaLand Hope Foundation. He published his memoirs, An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency in 2011, and Fifty Stories from My Life in 2013.
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