Doctor retiring after decades of carrying on family’s legacy
In 1847, a Massachusetts missionary and medical doctor named Samuel Fisk Green arrived in what is now called Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and would go on to found the country’s first medical school.
Fast-forward 171 years, and Green’s legacy is still being felt thousands of miles away in Newark, where Dr. Sath Amara has practiced medicine for more than 40 years, carrying on a family legacy that began when Amara’s grandfather, Vellayutham Amarasingham, attended Green’s medical school more than a century ago.
Amara, 79, — whose full last name is Amarasingham — has operated an internal medicine practice in Kelway Plaza on Main Street since 1977 and will retire at the end of this month after a lifetime in medicine. Dr. Reynold Agard, who’s located next door, will take over Amara’s practice.
For Amara, there was never any doubt he would go into medicine.
“It was a family tradition. My grandfather had three sons become doctors, and then in the grandchildren there are nine doctors,” he said.
After attending medical school in Sri Lanka, Amara came to the United States in 1970 and did his residency in Buffalo, N.Y. From there, the choice to settle in Delaware was an easy one, he said.
“I did my residency in Buffalo, New York, and then decided to come to Delaware because it’s a little warmer than Buffalo,” Amara said with a laugh.
As he prepares to retire, Amarasingham said he will miss his patients most, as he has gotten to know some of them quite well over the decades. In some cases, Amara has treated three generations of family members.
“It’s an easy way of coming out and meeting people and getting to know them,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s any other profession that gives you that opportunity to come to know people and their lives and their thoughts and their emotions and, of course, their body illnesses.”
Though he has no immediate plans after retirement, Amara, who lives in Newark, said he plans to devote much of his time to two of his favorite hobbies: reading and music.
As for Green, he died in 1884 at age 61 in his native Massachusetts, though his legacy in Sri Lanka lives on. The hospital he founded still exists today as Green Memorial Hospital and during his career, Green translated more than 4,000 pages of medical literature from English to Tamil as part of an effort to train doctors in their native language. On the 150th anniversary of the medical school’s founding in 1998, Sri Lanka even issued a stamp honoring Green’s contributions.
But for Amara, Green’s legacy is much more personal. On the wall of his office is a treasured picture from 1912 showing Amara’s grandfather, father and other family members standing together in Sri Lanka – a visual reminder of the legacy Amara carries on at his practice everyday.
“It’s something really notable that a man went from here, taught somebody in Sri Lanka and how that student’s children became doctors and went out to different parts of the world,” he said.
Dr. Sath Amara poses with a 1912 photo showing his grandfather, father and other family members. Amara’s grandfather and father were both doctors and Amara will retire at the end of April after more than 40 years in Newark.