​  Mudith Jayasekara (far left) wins the silver medal at NSW State Championships in 2015.  ​
Mudith Jayasekara (far left) wins the silver medal at the NSW State Championships in 2015.
BY DAVID GAVIN AND BELINDA HENWOOD

UNSW elite athlete scholar Dr. Mudith Jayasekara was last Friday announced as the 2022 NSW Rhodes Scholar Elect by NSW Governor, the Hon Margaret Beazley AC QC.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and possibly the most prestigious international scholarship program, enabling outstanding young people to study in their chosen field at Oxford University, England.

Dr. Jayasekara, who was a three-time national age champion for pole vault forced into retirement through injury, plans to undertake a Master of Science (MSc) in Applied Digital Health followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) with the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

He was one of two UNSW students to receive Rhodes Scholarships on Friday, along with alumnus, Dr. Rosemary Kirk, who was one of the Australia-at-large recipients.

Dr. Mudith Jayasekara
Dr. Mudith Jayasekara

  

During a promising athletics career, Dr. Jayasekara was part of the Australian Institute of Sport Development squad and NSW Institute of Sport Pole Vault Target Talent Program, representing Australia at youth level.

A popular member of the UNSW Athletics Club, retirement switched focus towards his studies with obvious success, now a junior doctor at Royal North Shore Hospital following his six-year Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine degree.

“The faculty and program structure provided such an incredibly supportive and stimulating environment that allowed for effective high-yield learning while forming life-long friendships and experiences,” Dr. Jayasekara said.

“(UNSW was) amazing at facilitating a balanced university experience, including supporting my pole-vaulting pursuits through the growing Elite Athlete Program.”

During his degree, he attended international electives including Paediatric Neurosurgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, in 2020 and shadowed the team physician for the New York Giants NFL Team in New York in 2019.

He graduated with Distinction in November 2020.

“I feel so grateful for all those around me who have inspired, supported and encouraged me throughout the years,” he said.

“Family, friends, teachers, mentors, colleagues, training partners, the list is endless, and I know that these people are the reason I am so optimistic about the future. I can’t wait to maximise the opportunities of the Rhodes experience and drive healthcare forward.

“Post Oxford, I hope to resume clinical practice and train as a neurosurgeon while working on innovative solutions in all aspects of healthcare delivery.

“I am (particularly) inspired by the work of people like Dr Atul Gawande who balance their clinical work, and role as an innovative and valuable public health leader.”

Frustrated with the inequity within the schooling system and disappointed with the limited reach of face-to-face teaching, Dr. Jayasekara was part of the founding team of Ethical Education – a not-for-profit that digitally connects volunteer tutors with means-tested students across Australia.

Inspired by the reach of scalable education, he is also working as part of the executive team of Project Planet (@projectplanetaus), a not-for-profit building a digital ecosystem to educate and engage Australians about the challenges and opportunities of ambitious climate action.