AJ Fernando, centre, with Sally Edelsberg, left, and David Teager, right, at the WCPT General Meeting in Washington in 1995

WCPT pays tribute to AJ Fernando

WCPT has learned of the death of Prof AJ Fernando, who served as WCPT President (1991-95).

Born and educated in Sri Lanka, AJ Fernando graduated from the Medical College of the University of Colombo and obtained his doctorate from the University of Manchester. He later became Dean of the School of Medical Rehabilitation, University of Manitoba, Canada.

Before serving as WCPT President, he served as a country member from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) and WCPT Vice President.

Ruth Wood, a friend and colleague of AJ, said: ‘Working with AJ was a pleasure. He was very smart and always in tune with the times. He contributed to discussions but ignored them if he believed them to be unnecessary or a poor use of time when he just wanted to get things done. He was a gentle man who did not like controversy nor was he judgmental. His philosophies were worth hearing and emulating.’

David Teager, WCPT Past President 1995-99, said: ‘AJ Fernando was perhaps the longest serving member of the WCPT Executive Committee, first as a country member, then as an elected Vice President and finally as President from 1991-1995. Sri Lankan by birth, he was educated in Sri Lanka and the UK and, following qualification as a teacher, held a number of academic appointments. Later he accepted a post at the University of Manitoba, Canada, where he was later appointed an Associate Professor.

‘During his term of office WCPT saw many changes in its governance and its wider establishment as an international professional organisation. One of his primary objectives was to facilitate a rise in the standard of physical therapy internationally. To this end he served on many working groups initiated by WCPT. His greatest pleasure was to meet with friends and colleagues at congress to discuss with them ways to advance the profession on a global basis.’ 

Brenda Myers, former Executive Director of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and WCPT Secretary General 1995-2016, said: ‘In 1978 I walked into the WCPT General Meeting as a curious observer. I’d heard of, but didn’t really know the Canadians who were involved, including AJ Fernando, a former President of the CPA. I was intrigued and not long after I was invited to be involved in the CPA international affairs committee - the start of many years of international engagement. AJ always had a unique perspective and while I was chair of the International Affairs Committee and later still as Executive Director of CPA, his brief but often insightful comments forced me to think twice about how I was interpreting the facts in front of me. He believed fervently in national professional associations and the role they could play together in building a strong international profession. He also saw the diversity in the profession and in associations around the world as a strength - something not to be lost as WCPT grew, as regions formed and as the profession became stronger. AJ lived in Canada, was born in Sri Lanka and was a proud member of the global/international community.’