Academic activities

The academic programme comprises the undergraduate medical programme; post-graduate activities; and elective attachments.

Undergraduate programme

The undergraduate curriculum consists of:

  • Lectures
  • Case-based learning
  • Clinical Attachments (Community Medicine, Family Medicine  & Professorial Appointment)
  • Field Health Programme
  • Research Project


Lectures are conducted from the first year to the fourth year with most of the sessions carried out in the third and fourth year of the five-year undergraduate medical programme.

Case-based learning

Case-based learning sessions are conducted in the fourth year of the medical curriculum in the traditional format of pre-discussion, self-study, and post-discussion. In these sessions, students draw on the knowledge and skills gained in various components of the Community and Family Medicine curriculum to address common public health problems.

Clinical Attachments

Community Medicine Clinical Attachment:

This 6-week attachment takes place during the third or fourth year of the medical programme. During the attachment, students are exposed to a range of preventive/primary care settings in Jaffna to obtain a working knowledge of the functioning and administration of the healthcare system and public health institutions. In addition, they participate in various health education and community empowerment activities taking place in the University Field Project Area/MOH Nallur.

Teaching is shared among department staff, MOH Nallur staff and other field tutors. The latter are drawn from a variety of backgrounds, most with relevant expertise in public health or the social sector. Affiliated learning centres include the Office of the Regional Directorate of Health Services – Jaffna, Teaching Hospital Jaffna, Chest Clinic Jaffna, Anti-Malaria Campaign Jaffna, Divisional Secretariat Nallur, Pradesa Saba Nallur,  Water Supply and Drainage Board Jaffna, State Home for the Elders Kaithady, Cancer Aid for North/East (CANE), Co-operative Hospital Moolai, Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation (JJCDR), Nuffield School for Deaf & Blind, Sivapoomi School for Children with Special Needs, Sivapoomi Elders’ Home, and Shanthiham.

Family Medicine Clinical Appointment:

This 2-week attachment takes place during the third or fourth year of the medical programme through the Family Health Centre. Students are exposed to an innovative primary healthcare model and are expected to gain an understanding of the principles of managing and administering a smaller community-based institution. The teaching is shared by a Consultant Family Physician attached to the Department and the Divisional Medical Officer (DMO) of Divisional Hospital Kondavil. Much of the learning takes place at the Family Health Center. Students also carry out home visits to reach out to vulnerable families and individuals.

Integrated teaching in Psychiatry and Family Medicine for final year medical students

The academic staff in the Family Medicine stream partner with the Department of Psychiatry to further the objective of acquiring knowledge to diagnose and manage the common psychiatric problems in the primary care setting. The intended learning outcomes of these sessions are:

  • To identify the physical and social health issues among patients with mental health problems;
  • To describe the principles in the management of mental health issues in primary care;
  • To be able to identify and manage physical and social health issues among patients with mental health problems in primary care settings.

This Family Medicine component is delivered on two days per week during the Professorial Appointment in Psychiatry. 

Field Health Programme

The Field Health Programme (FHP) is a 9-month field attachment in Community Medicine. During the attachment, students gain practical field experience in health promotion by working with communities in the University Field Project Area – MOH Nallur. A ‘community’ comprising about 60 families is assigned to each group of about 25 students. During the attachment, students are expected to carry out a needs assessment, arrive at a community diagnosis, and plan and implement a community-based health promotion intervention. Dedicated time is allocated in the academic schedule for field visits and seminars. Students visit the assigned families between the seminars and field visits, as and when necessary, for successful completion of the FHP.

 Research Project

This is undertaken during the course of the third and fourth year of the medical programme. The project is carried out by groups of five students. Students select a health problem/topic of interest, conceptualize their research questions, and design an appropriate methodology, under the guidance of two supervisors. An interdisciplinary approach is encouraged; the first supervisor is attached to the Department, and the second supervisor is selected by the students in consultation with their first supervisors. Once the proposal is ready, students present it to the Department for feedback, and then obtain ethics approval before data collection. The final research report is submitted at the end of the fourth year.

Post-graduate training

The Department functions as a training centre for the MD in Community Medicine of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM), University of Colombo. Postgraduate trainees in MSc programmes offered by the PGIM are also supervised by academic staff of the Department. The following post-graduate trainees have obtained postgraduate training in the Department.

Dr. P. Lukumar (2004 to 2006, PGIM trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. N. Sivarajah & Dr. A. Pathmeswaran)

Dr. R. Surenthirakumaran (2008 to 2011, PGIM trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. N. Sivarajah & Dr. A. Pathmeswaran)

Dr. S. Sivaganesh (2009 to 2011, PGIM trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. N. Sivarajah & Dr. A. Pathmeswaran)

Dr. N. Rajeshkannan (2009 to 2011, PGIM trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. N. Sivarajah & Dr. A. Pathmeswaran)

Dr. P. A. D. Coonghe (2013 to 2015, PGIM trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. N. Sivarajah & Prof. Pushpa Fonseka)

Dr. M. Thakshagini (2016, PGIM Trainee, MSc Venereology, supervised Dr. R. Surenthirakumaran)

Dr. J. T. Sivashankar (2019, PGIM Trainee, MD Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. R. Surenthirakumaran)

Dr. N. Parameswaran (2020, PGIM Trainee, MSc Community Medicine, supervised by Dr. B. Kumarendran)

Elective attachments for international students

 The Department accepts a limited number of international medical students interested in undertaking a placement in matters relevant to community and family medicine. The placement provides opportunities to train in peri-urban and rural settings in northern Sri Lanka, enabling students to:

Become familiar with the structure and organization of Sri Lanka’s widely acclaimed preventive health sector;

Visit a range of health institutions located in the Northern Province, including provincial/district-level health administrative institutions, divisional hospitals, maternal and child health clinics, and other grassroots non-government organizations engaged in the provision of community-based services;

Participate in health promotion and health education programmes at community level;

Work with healthcare staff and patients whose first language is not English; and

Gain familiarity with the challenges of working in a resource-poor setting.