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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2680

Dr. Malika Jayasooriya: Walking with people in the midst of their pain

By Daya Gamage - An Asian Tribune Profile
Las Vegas, Nevada. 14 June (

The word compassion means “to suffer with.” Compassionate care calls physicians to walk with people in the midst of their pain, to be partners with patients rather than experts dictating information to them. This description fits into the character of Sri Lanka-born physician Dr. Malika Jayasooriya whom this writer had the rare privilege of meeting at a rehabilitation hospital, her own brainchild, first in the whole of the United States, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Disease of the modern age, such as cancer caused by the stress and strain of daily life, have complicated symptoms and are progressively more difficult to treat. Consequently, modern medicine has started to look for different methods of treatment to cure such conditions and to help people get their lives back on an even keel again. This kind of research is carried out objectively within the confine of the medical science. However, on a more spiritual level, one can find within Buddhism various principles and practices which can be used to bring peace and happiness to the mind and the good health to the body. In particular, meditation has brought beneficial effects to the many people who have learned how to practice it.

This writer had an unusual and rewarding experience meeting that highly qualified and dedicated Dr. Malika Jayasooriya who has adopted these techniques and methods within a specially organized hospital unit for the first time in the history of medicine in the United States.

She without reservation admits that the mind can control the body's performance. With the deep understanding that the mind can be an important cause of sickness in the body and it inevitably follows that it can also provide the cure, she is engaged in this meritorious deed in healing the sick.

This is the uniqueness of Dr. Malika Jayasooriya Medical Director at Health South Desert Canyon Rehabilitation Hospital in Las Vegas in the State of Nevada, one of the 110 hospitals owned by Health South chain of hospitals, who was bestowed “The Medical Director of the Year” in all of the 110 Health South chains of hospitals in 2012.

This not 'just' one of those 110 hospitals; this facility in Las Vegas is solely for cancer rehabilitation.
Getting hold of her far-sightedness, she initiated the inauguration of the first-ever Cancer Rehabilitation Center never attempted by anyone in the United States.

The Oncology Rehabilitation program she designed and started at this facility provides, according to the description she provided to Asian Tribune, a complete range of rehabilitative services targeting to meet the multi-faceted, medical, psychological, and functional needs of individuals with cancer related disabilities never attempted anywhere in the United States before.

The Asian Tribune visited the facility in Las Vegas to have an up close and personal experience explained by her energetic and dedicated senior staffers.

The healing room, an innovation of Dr. Jayasooriya named after her as "Malika Inspirational Room", helps patients to get into meditation, music therapy, and other types of emotional relaxation techniques, all of which are carefully designed and put into operation by her.

Dr. Jayasooriya sees that the patient must play a part in helping oneself, not depending on medicine alone. That was the part of the rehabilitation process she has introduced in this rehabilitation hospital at Las Vegas. The rehabilitation is so unique that it demonstrates that the mind can look after itself and have an effect on the treatment of physical disease.

This writer found a quote from Kusala Bhikshu which goes on like this: "Mindfulness is a doorway to the present moment experience of life... Love is the profound unconditional acceptance of the way things are... This unconditional acceptance is expressed through the activity of kindness... Love is acceptance... Kindness is activity... Love is Mind... Kindness is Body... Loving-Kindness".

Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness meditation can transform both the patient and those around him.
It is this deep understanding and devotion to healing with utmost compassion that Dr. Jayasooriya discharges her medical practice here in the Las Vegas cancer rehabilitation facility, and extended a helping hand to her motherland - Sri Lanka. She never forgot what Sri Lanka offered her, and Asian Tribune needs to highlight what she gave back to this South Asian nation - to the siblings of those who fought and lost limbs and lives to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation which faced a twenty six-year terrorist onslaught which brought utter misery to its people.

Initiated by Dr. Jayasooriya, about fifty children of War Heroes who sacrificed their lives, missing in action or became disabled due to the terrorist onslaught on Sri Lanka's territorial integrity were awarded at a ceremony on 19 December 2009 at the Defense Services Command and Staff College at Batalanda in Sri Lanka. Those scholarships were sponsored by Dr. Jayasooriya, her relatives and her colleagues in the medical profession.
Major General M.P.Peiris, the Regimental commander Mechanized Infantry Regiment and Military Secretary graced the occasion.

Dr. Jayasooriya was born in Bandarawela, and attended Visakha Girls School in Bandarawela up to middle school. In her senior years she attended Devi Balika Girls School in Sri Lanka's capital city Colombo. She was enrolled in the deep south Ruhuna University and Peradeniya University Medical Schools from which she received her medical degree in 1987.

She then came to the United States and completed her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas in 2003. Today, Dr. Jayasooriya is board certified in both PMR and pain medicine.

She runs her own clinic in Las Vegas apart from her duties in the cancer rehabilitation facility.

Her life completely changed in the year 2008; her older brother who cared and raised the younger siblings since the death of their father succumbed to cancer. He was in his ripe age of 47. While she released her emotional psyche in writing and publishing a book about her brother, releasing a compact disc of 14 emotional songs and contributing the entire proceeds to Sri Lanka's cancer hospital, she mainly focused, in memory of her brother, in designing a project or program to facilitate the rehabilitation of cancer patients.

She said at the time she was giving her deep concentration toward devising a method, program or system to rehabilitate cancer patients, there were no such facility in the whole of the United States. She presented her project to the hierarch of the Health South Hospital Chain, which has 110 hospitals throughout the U.S., to her delight they accepted to establish a cancer rehabilitation unit in Las Vegas exactly on the lines she proposed. She became the Medical director of this Las Vegas cancer rehabilitation hospital, Desert Canyon Rehabilitation hospital, this writer had the privilege of touring.

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry, focuses on helping patients recover functionality after an illness or injury. A physical medicine/rehabilitation specialist may use diagnostic tools such as nerve conduction studies (NCS), which measure the nerves’ responses to electrical stimulation, and needle electromyographies (EMGs), which assess the effects of needle electrodes on the muscles. Treatments include physical therapy, medication, orthotics and adaptive devices. Physiatrists may work with physical, occupational and speech therapists. Subspecialties in physical medicine and rehabilitation include pediatrics, neurology and internal medicine.

Dr. Malika Jayasooriya goes beyond this; She designed a program of healing using meditation, music therapy and associated techniques which is the uniqueness of her compassionate caring. At the Desert Canyon Rehabilitation hospital in Las Vegas in which she is the director practices this unique caring process for the cancer patients.

The Oncology Rehabilitation program provides a full range of rehabilitative services at the aim of meeting the multi-faceted, medical, psychological, and functional needs of individuals with cancer related disabilities.

The technological advances of the past century tended to change the focus of medicine from a caring, service oriented model to a technological, cure-oriented model. Technology has led to phenomenal advances in medicine and has given us the ability to prolong life. However, in the past few decades physicians have attempted to balance their care by reclaiming medicine's more spiritual roots, recognizing that until modern times spirituality was often linked with health care. Spiritual or compassionate care involves serving the whole person—the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. Such service is inherently a spiritual activity.

And, Dr. Malika Jayasooriya is engaged in this endeavor toward the healing of cancer patients through a unique rehabilitation process blending the West and East using her innovative and creative mind.
Meditation has been extensively tested in laboratories around the world and is proven to help heal the body and mind of illnesses and disorders.

In August 2003, Time Magazine ran a cover story on meditation in which they reported that over ten million U.S. citizens say they regularly practice some form of meditation, an increase of 100% in the ten years prior. Furthermore, Time went on to say that “it’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid meditation. It’s offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government buildings, corporate offices, and prisons.”

"Meditation is recommended as a way to cure or improve many disorders. Key to this is the fact that meditation helps lower blood pressure and strengthens the immune system. It is effective both as means to prevent disease, and as a means to cure, manage or slow the effects of existing conditions. It is used as treatment for “heart conditions, AIDS, cancer, and infertility … depression, hyperactivity, and Attention Deficit Disorder” (Time).

If one visits the Desert Canyon Rehabilitation hospital in Las Vegas and step into the "Malika Inspirational Room" at a time when the cancer patients are exposed to the 'spiritual practice' of healing one would be in a position to unravel the analytical and innovative mind of Dr. Malika Jayasooriya along with the compassion she emanate toward her cancer patients, a fitting tribute in memory of her departed brother 'Sudu Aiya' or in loose term 'loving brother'.

The word compassion means “to suffer with.” Compassionate care calls physicians to walk with people in the midst of their pain, to be partners with patients rather than experts dictating information to them.

This writer gave a fitting caption to this Asian Tribune account.

- Asian Tribune –

The cancer rehabilitation center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dr. Malika Jayasooriya in front of the 'Inspiration Room'
Dr. Malika Jayasooriya
Dr. Malika Jayasooriya
The cancer rehabilitation center in Las Vegas, Nevada
diconary view
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