It is not everyday that Sri Lankans are exalted for their achievement abroad, but given the rarity of such occurrences, the few cases are certainly worth our acclaim. Rasika Wickramasinghe is a Sri Lankan student studying in the United States.

He has made history by becoming the first foreign student to gain admission to the elite Medical Scientist Training Program of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, Johns Hopkins is the most prestigious name in American medicine celebrated for its cutting edge research and quality of clinical training. It is the birthplace of countless novelties in medicine and research. It goes as no surprise, therefore, that it is dubbed the nickname “the Mecca of Medicine” by the American public.

Given the quality of this institution, gaining admission to this school of medicine with an admission rate of less than 0.1% is a dream-come-true for any American student.

But if gaining admission to Johns Hopkins was his only feat, the achievement is only marginally worth mentioning. Instead, Rasika enters Johns Hopkins as the first non-American in the world to receive both his MD and PhD degrees with full funding for the duration of his training. The funding for his training originates from a prestigious merit-based fellowship awarded by Merck Research Laboratories, a pharmaceutical giant in the USA.

On the request of the MD/PhD program at Johns Hopkins, Merck agreed to support Rasika’s education, and granted $500,000 as the total cost for his education for eight years. This fellowship is the first of its kind to be awarded by Merck with no future obligation on the recipient’s part.

Rasika is an old boy of Ananda College, Colombo, where he obtained 4 A’s in his A-Levels. He qualified for admission to the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Colombo, but decided instead to pursue his education in the US in molecular biology.

His impeccable academic record in Sri Lanka made him an attractive candidate to many top-rated universities in the USA including Harvard, Stanford and Cornell. He decided to go to Stanford University, on a full-scholarship funded by Genentech, a biotechnology company in the USA, which provided $40,000 per year for his four year education.

Rasika is the son of Dr. and Mrs. H. T. Wickramasinghe, former Head of Department of Paediatrics at Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, Kotte. Dr. Wickramasinghe (an Old Anandian) is now working as the Head of the Department of Paediatrics in RIPAS Teaching Hospital in Brunei Darussalam and honorary senior lecturer in paediatrics at the University of Queensland, Australia.

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