Prestigious UK alumni award for leading maternity consultant

Published on 14 March 2024

A University of Dundee postgraduate is honoured for his pioneering work as a maternity consultant, teacher and innovator in Sri Lanka.

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A leading maternity care consultant and former University of Dundee postgraduate has been recognised for his pioneering work at the British Council’s prestigious Study UK Alumni Awards in Sri Lanka.

Dr Mohamed Rishard Riyal received the Science and Sustainability award for his work in obstetrics, gynaecology, teaching and innovation at a ceremony in Colombo.

The British Council's Study UK Awards celebrate UK higher education and the achievements of international alumni who have studied at UK universities.

Dr Rishard, who is an Honorary Consultant and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Colombo, has a long list of achievements. These include the development of training material and an online learning platform for medical students, improvements in maternity care for women in Sri Lanka and the development and patenting of a surgical instrument to prevent preterm birth.

In 2013 , Dr Rishard obtained a placement at Whittington Hospital in London to complete his postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology. While staying in the UK, he started a postgraduate course in medical education at the University of Dundee School of Medicine, which he describes as a “turning point” in his career.

In his awards submission, Dr Rishard said, “The Dundee course shaped me to become a better clinical teacher and a researcher.”

He undertook an assignment in 2014 in which he conducted research on overseas doctors which was later published in a peer review journal. His teaching and training portfolio were then recognised by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) and he was invited to develop a handbook for overseas trainees.

When Dr Rishard returned to Sri Lanka in 2015, he said he was “inspired by the learning opportunities” he had encountered in the UK, including the University of Dundee’s online student learning platform.

He said, “I embarked on a mission to bring accessible medical training to my home country. The result was a free web-based programme that reached out to nurses, doctors, and midwives, working in his setting.”

Dr Rishard said that while the rate of morbidity in maternity care is relatively low in Sri Lanka, he found gaps in the quality of care and that was something he wanted to address. So he developed a range of training modules for care givers.

One of his programmes received a silver award from the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka and two prestigious national awards in 2021.

The "Respectful Maternity Care" course, which is focused on "transforming the experience of expectant mothers", was included in the 'top 10 innovative projects' at the Digital Health Awards of the Commonwealth countries in 2022.

Dr Rishard said, “In my unit in Sri Lanka, I observed disparities in the treatment of women, motivating me to embark on a mission to address these. Extensive research, coupled with in-depth interviews with over 400 women, paved the way for a series of training programmes promoting respectful and person-centred care.”

He has also developed and holds the intellectual property for a surgical device that can be used to place a stitch to prevent pre-term birth in vulnerable women. He is currently making efforts to conduct a clinical trial using this device. 

Dr Rishard is a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo and clinician at the De Soysa Maternity Hospital which is a tertiary care centre for women, where undergraduate and postgraduate medical students are trained, and he said his Dundee university experiences were formative.

He said, “My Dundee education and experience of the Dundee course has shaped the way I teach and the way I do research. 

“It was inspiring, because, when I started in Dundee, some of my friends said they thought it would be a difficult programme but I really enjoyed the assignments. Even now the assignments are very useful to me. So if I want to develop some teaching or a questionnaire, I refer to those assignments.” 

Dr Rishard received his Study UK award from Andrew Patrick, the British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and Orlando Edwards, Director of the British Council Sri Lanka, at a special ceremony in Colombo which was attended by other alumni award winners.

The event also included a specially recorded message of congratulations from Professor Mairi Scott, Director of the Centre for Medical Education (Teaching and Scholarship) at the University of Dundee. Professor Scott paid tribute to Dr Rishard for his work as an educator and innovator, and for advancing maternity care in Sri Lanka.

In her accolade, Prof Scott said, “I am delighted to offer my sincere congratulations on receiving the British Council Science and Sustainability Award. Your recognition of the pivotal role that our Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Education played in your career success is also deeply appreciated

“It is truly commendable how you have utilised the clinical teaching and research skills gained from the programme to excel in your role as Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo. The recent awards bestowed upon you by both the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka and the National Research Council are a testament to your dedication and exceptional contributions.

“So, on behalf of everyone at the University of Dundee, please accept our heartfelt congratulations on this well-deserved honour and we wish you continued success in all your future endeavours.”