Dr Poorna Gunasekera

Dr Poorna Gunasekera

Associate Dean International

Peninsula Medical School (Faculty of Health)

Member of the Faculty Research Ethics committee, 

Roles at Peninsula School of Medicine: Associate Professor in Biomedical Sciences, Lead for Interprofessional Education, Co-lead of Tissue Pathology, Co-lead for Overseas Student Support, Mentor, Academic and Pastoral Tutor


Poorna, hailing from Kandy, Sri Lanka, practised general medicine, then ophthalmology, before moving to the United Kingdom having been awarded a commonwealth scholarship in 1999. In research, he led an initiative that identified the possible association between maternal rubella infestation and congenital blindness presenting to a tertiary eye hospital, which ultimately led to the introduction of the rubella vaccine to the Expanded Programme of Immunisation in Sri Lanka. He also served as the director of a maternal mortality trial conducted in four centres in Ghana by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with over 200,000 registered participants. His current research focus is in empowering individuals and communities to have a greater control over their own health.

Poorna has worked with students of multiple disciplines, at various stages of study, ranging from those following ACCESS and BTEC courses in Further Education to postgraduates in diverse centres of Higher Education, which explains his strong commitment to interprofessional education. He also served as the lead evaluation researcher of JUMP2, a four-year study of interprofessional education funded by the Department of Health, involving four universities and ten NHS trusts in London. He has won multiple awards for inspirational teaching and student support, in his current role as a facilitator of education.

Poorna is also a fervent advocate of internationalisation. In his role as the Associate Dean (International) of the Faculty of Health, he seeks to promote the footprint of the University of Plymouth across the global stage. In his own words: "I am where I am today because of the opportunities extended by those who reached out across oceans. I therefore have a duty to pay back. Our Faculty of Health boasts one of the largest portfolios in Health and Social Care offered through six top-class schools (https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/about-us/university-structure/faculties/health). Plymouth also as a rich history of welcoming people from all corners of the world, thanks to its maritime history. I consider it a privilege to augment the presence, and the lived-experience, of international students and staff in Plymouth, as much as enhance opportunities for our own students to thrive in the global stage. Ultimately those networks will benefit the lives of all global citizens, especially those in the wonderful host community of Plymouth".  

While he absolutely enjoys the privilege of working with some of the brightest minds, Poorna's true passion lies in facilitating the process of self-discovery of the innate potential that lies within each individual. This vision lies at the heart of MegaReach (www.megareach.org) a global volunteering organisation that he founded in early 2015, which has touched the lives of those living in all 5 continents of the world with the simple message of “making a real difference to real people”. His story is outlined in the TEDx talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/poorna_gunasekera_the_legacy_of_self_discovery. Poorna is always open to the possibility of collaborating with like-mined individuals and organisations and loves working across boundaries of every nature.