'It's been a physical and mental struggle, and I am proud to have got over the line'
A new Edinburgh Napier graduate told today how her path to an MBA was almost wrecked by Sri Lanka’s horrific Easter bombings.
Health management student Hashani Gunasekera was finalising her research proposal for her online course when suicide bombers claimed the lives of 269 people on April 21 2019.
The atrocity sparked widespread tension on the South Asian island and a security crackdown which included a ban on public use of the internet.
Then, just as the situation was stabilising, along came the Covid pandemic which forced Hashani to defer her research into patients undergoing elective surgery so she could go and work on the hospital frontline.
In a year in which no graduate had it easy, the 28-year-old has more reasons than most to be proud of the Masters in Business Administration (Health Management) she was finally awarded this week by Edinburgh Napier.
Hashani said: “Completing my MBA has been a physical and mental struggle so I am very proud to have got over the line, with particular thanks to my supervisor Libby Campbell, who showed the utmost support throughout all these crises.
“It really is a dream come true. Now I hope to use my knowledge and experience to work in the health administrative sector to improve health systems in Sri Lanka and create a safe environment for both patients and doctors.”
Hashani’s course was delivered by the University in partnership with the Sri Lanka-based Business Management School, and Edinburgh Napier teaching staff travelled to South Asia for the orientation programme and some lectures.
Hashani began her studies in January 2018, but 15 months later the peace of the island was shattered when nine suicide bombers detonated devices in six locations. The victims ranged from worshippers celebrating Easter in church to tourists eating in hotel restaurants.
The student said: “It happened just weeks before I was due to submit my research proposal, and the country was plunged into distress with curfews and multiple bomb scares which brought back memories of the civil war. Security was increased everywhere and there was a ban on the internet as well for the public.”
Tensions gradually eased but by the time Hashani got clearance to carry out her research she was working round-the-clock as an intern doctor at a busy district hospital in the northern province of Kilinochchi. Her on-call duties covered obstetrics, gynaecology and internal medicine.
She said: “I was away from my family and loved ones and internet access was poor, hampering my attempts to complete my dissertation. Then Covid struck and I had to defer for a year and go and work frontline. My research focused on patients undergoing elective surgery, and this type of surgery was cancelled during the pandemic.
“It was not until this year, after overcoming multiple delays, bombings, a pandemic and a physically and mentally exhausting internship, that I finally managed to complete my MBA - before a third wave of Covid struck.”
Hashani is now working as a medical officer in a government hospital in Sri Lanka, a role which combines medical and administrative work. She said: “I am keen to promote patient-centred decision making. I am also planning to start my own medical clinic in the future, and hope to use my expertise as a doctor and an administrator to provide the best of care for my patients.”
Libby Campbell, lecturer in Edinburgh Napier’s School of Health & Social Care, said: “Hashani should be proud of herself, achieving an MBA from Edinburgh Napier and doing so entirely online, when it was available, while working in frontline healthcare, during a major incident and its fallout, and during the pandemic.
“I'm glad I was able to help support her and I wish her well for the future.”