Using his experience and intuition to the maximum, Kithsiri Edirisinghe, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of International Institute of Health Sciences (IIHS), strives for challenges and finds motivation behind implementing good causes.
Kithsiri’s career foundation dates back to his alma mater, St. Thomas College Mt. Lavinia, where he developed a sense of clairvoyance and divergent thinking patterns. With a thought to pursue MBBS for higher studies, he went on to join North Colombo Medical College, one of Colombo’s first private medical colleges. Having adored his time and learning experiences there, he proudly remembers everything they were taught and expresses his gratitude towards all the teachers. “It was an organization which moulded us to be ethical professionals”, he says.
After completing his medical degree, he was appointed for his first job in a rural hospital in Mahawaltenne, Balangoda. Kithsiri recalls working with his bare hands due to the lack of many basic facilities such as nurses, testing, ambulance or even a telephone. Yet, regardless of his drawbacks, he experienced a phenomenal opportunity to put his learning into practice.
Encountering the need to take up the administrator role during his time there, Kithsiri developed a liking for and interest in administration. Thus, further pursued his education with a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in Health Administration. Following its completion, he was placed as a Deputy Director at North Colombo Hospital. Amidst being in a challenging environment, he attained a great deal of knowledge alongside one of his mentors, Mahanama Rajamnathri.
Fast-forwarding to four years later, Kithsiri chose to disburse the energy he held into practice by joining hands with one of the private sector conglomerates in putting up a chain of hospitals. Commencing off as a Senior Manager, he eventually soared up the ladder. He took on the position of CEO, during which period, he designed and built two hospitals with the support of his team. He contemplated the shift from a government to a private sector to be a parallel one. Praising the excellent mentors and great leaders he came across while working there, Kithsiri demonstrates his need to get into something different and stimulating.
Kithsiri proceeded towards taking his next step by working with a small nursing school. “During this time, I had the luxury of meeting people like Professor Gunapala Nanayakkara, who found something within me”, he declares. The significant moment was when the Asian Grid Entrepreneurs Award was received in 2009, gaining the needed confidence to conquer his challenges, he eventually moved into IIHS as it was a challenge he wanted to pursue. Furthermore, he was supported by an eminent, well experienced and certified professional, Nihal De Silva, the driving force of IIHS amidst the cognitive concept creation. Throughout the course of the organization, the great assistance provided by the IIHS staff has also been exceptional.
The informative visits of “Back to Australia”, which was an Australian study visit that provided knowledge, training, was very useful. Also, the USA visit facilitated the “International Visitor Leadership” program. When inquired about his shift from health care to trading and development, he emphasizes the shortage of qualified people in the sector. Nursing is considered to be a gap worldwide. Focusing on the need to bridge such a gap, Kithsiri took an interest in the organization. While he believes it is less stressful than the health care sector, there is still a lot to do. However, nursing was regarded as a stigma, while now it’s a followed profession. Amal Harsha De Silva has been a great advocate for 02 decades and his support towards the “Public-Private Partnership”, has strengthened the establishment.
Commenting on the background of IIHS, Kithsiri states, “The foundation of any organization is important”. Founded by two doctors who came down from the USA almost twenty years ago, the initial aim was to minimize the export of unskilled labour. Having met them in 2006, Kithsiri joined the industry two years later. Established with only diplomas, IIHS now has Bachelor’s, Master’s Degree and Doctorate grants. Stating all the milestones achieved in the years of hard work, IIHS is one of the leaders in South East Asia in terms of research with nine hundred publications, two thousand graduates and two thousand active government nurses and another 1000 students studying after AL/ OL’s upon request.
Working with some of the top universities internationally, IIHS has created two modules of engagement, one of which is known as the articulated pathways, allowing students to complete their fourth year of education in Finland, Australia or the UK. “We have created an environment where we train the 21st-century kids”, Kithsiri remarks. Building an enjoyable learning environment, IIHS focuses on beginning their academic journey with critical thinking and evidence-based practice while enhancing leadership qualities through community work and projects. “We create graduates that are world-ready”, he asserts.
Upon requesting Kithsiri of his thoughts on the educational system in Sri Lanka, he responds, “Our education system is based on exclusion.” With an example compared to Australia, he discusses the importance of training and education required within a nation to get it to the top. Speaking about the lack of resources, facilities and barriers caused for kids, he discusses looking at the industry with a perspective for space of growth. The lack of focus in improving the capacity for the creativity education industry and the gap between the nineteen-century teachers and current century kids are areas he believes need utmost focus.
Contributing to the educational sector at IIHS, they focus on training teachers through collaborative workshops to help create an improved perception of contemporary education. “We are an open book, and we would love to contribute what we know”, Kithsiri states. He furthermore illustrates the importance of breaking the wall between government and private sectors to form better collaboration in progressing and developing the education industry.
Owning strengths that urge him to learn as well as solve problems have helped Kithsiri surmount great heights. For example, while he mentions one of his weaknesses is to get bored with a repetitive task, he happily chooses to turn that weakness into strength, thus keeping him on track and staying ahead of others every step of the way.
Having a positive mindset towards making a difference, Kithsiri emphasizes the importance of dreaming with a purpose. Sharing his favourite quote by Denzel Washington, he asserts, “Dreams without goals are just dreams, and they ultimately fuel disappointment.” Encouraging everyone and everyone around them to learn and find experience from everything and everyone around themselves, Kithsiri has done the same from the beginning of time.