Dr. Viraine Weerasooriya returns to the Department of Pediatrics as a faculty member and Clinical Director in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Even though his last name is pronounced exactly as it is spelled, his patients find it easier to call him “Doctor W”. Viraine recently moved from sunny southwest Florida where he spent the last 12 years in clinical practice.
Viraine was born in Sri Lanka, but he doesn’t remember it there since his family immigrated to the US when he was two months old. Viraine’s father, a family physician, completed his training in New York and then moved the family to Englewood, Florida, a small southwest Florida town on the Gulf of Mexico. He spent his childhood and teen years focused on school, but with plenty of time for fishing, boating, sports, and hanging out with his 2 brothers. He graduated from the University of Florida with BS (microbiology) and MD degrees. Wife-to-be Rachel was then studying in the UF Pharmacy program. They met in Viraine’s third year of medical school. After graduation, they moved to St. Louis where Viraine completed his residency and fellowship years in Pediatric Gastroenterology at Children’s Hospital. He credits these years at Children’s and Washington University as the highlight [or cornerstone] of his medical training. During this time Rachel was employed as a Clinical Pediatric Pharmacist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, a job she dearly loved.
In 2001, after Viraine’s first year of GI fellowship, Darby was born. It was an exciting and challenging time. But at about 8 weeks Darby was noted to have some developmental delays and low muscle tone. In time she was found to have global developmental delay, with a multitude of symptoms. After consulting with many specialists, over the years, and undergoing many tests, a diagnosis has not been made. Today she is still at the developmental age of a one or two-year-old.
Darby’s younger sister, Zoe, was born 12 years later. She is a happy, healthy kid with just enough attitude. Viraine and Rachel love being parents, and know that childrearing is not always easy, for any parents. But they now appreciate the special challenges of parenting a child with special needs. Just as they were excited to see Zoe’s first steps at 11 months, so, too were they overjoyed when Darby learned to sit up on her own at 2 years or drink from a straw at age 7. Darby requires a lot of work, as you can imagine. But she is an absolutely delightful child. The experiences Viraine has had parenting these two lovely children has given him additional insight in understanding and relating to the concerns and motivations of the families he works with.
Viraine is excited about his new work here at Washington University and at St. Louis Children’s hospital. He has some old friends and colleagues here and has made many new ones. He is especially interested in studying and improving the delivery of clinical care for pediatric GI patients and their families. He is already having fun. And he plans to continue his other favorite activities: hanging out with family and pursuing sports (which now means yoga and swimming — after several joint repairs). Come February, he suspects he will miss the warm sunny weather of Florida, but at least he won’t have to deal with the hurricanes.