Shanti Gunawardena, MD, PhD, FACP
Dr. Gunawardena is a bent arrow who after receiving his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley started off as a research engineer in Robotics and Automation. He spent the first 6 years following his PhD at ATT’s Western Electric Engineering Research Center and Bell Telephone Laboratories in Princeton, NJ. This was followed by a 7 year stint at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and Hewlett-Packard’s Corporate Division. He has several US patents related to clean room automation.
Driven by an interest in melding his background in engineering with medicine, Dr. Gunawardena subsequently attended medical school the first two years of which he completed at the George Washington University School of Medicine. In order to be closer to his family he transferred to Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in his third year and completed his MD degree there. While in medical school he did research in Cardiac imaging at the Cleveland Clinic funded primarily by his former employer, Hewlett-Packard. Following graduation from medical school he started his clinical training in Radiology at the Cleveland Clinic. However, he soon realized that his true calling in medicine lay in clinical care with close patient interactions. This led to a change in specialties and subsequent training in Internal Medicine at the MetroHealth Campus of CWRU. Following the completion of a Fellowship in Geriatrics in 1999, Dr. Gunawardena was offered a faculty position in CWRU based at MetroHealth Medical Center and specifically asked to start a Heart Failure clinic which served as the foundation for a highly successful comprehensive heart failure disease management program that currently boasts a multidisciplinary team with multiple dedicate heart failure providers and support staff.
Dr. Gunawardena retired from MetroHealth in 2014 and joined the Long Beach VA Medical Center where he proposed and played a seminal role in setting up a unique comprehensive heart failure disease management program based on collaboration between Primary Care and Cardiology. While on full time staff at the VA he was also a faculty member of University of California Irvine School of Medicine. Dr. Gunawardena currently works as a heart failure physician on a part-time basis.
Dr. Gunawardena’s interest in Telehealth dates back to the early 2000s. In 2008, he developed a model based on Telemedicine for the delivery of healthcare 24 hours a day to underserved rural populations in his native Sri Lanka. This proposal utilized Sri Lankan expatriate healthcare providers, particularly those who were retired and available worldwide, so that coverage could be provided regardless of the time of day. The focus was on triaging patients, particularly during the hours when local healthcare providers were not available. Also proposed in the model was the facility for a local provider to obtain a specialty consultation from an expatriate physician.
Dr. Gunawardena was selected by his peers for inclusion in the Best Doctors in AmericaÆ database between 2011 and 2016. He has published in peer reviewed medical and engineering journals and recently was the co-author of a book chapter on the pathophysiology of cardiorenal syndrome in heart failure.