Born in Singapore, Nihal Kulatilake attended the Raffles Institution in Singapore for his primary and secondary education. At age 19, he moved to Sri Lanka to study medicine at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. In 1974, he obtained his M.B.,B.S from University of Peradeniya and completed his postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1981. Dr. Nihal Kulatilake credits his consultant trainer, Dr. Samuel J Stephen, as the inspiration in becoming a cardiac surgeon. Dr. Nihal Kulatilake became the first Sri Lankan to be the Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery Department in a University Teaching Hospital in U.K. He is also credited with having one of the best surgical results in the U.K.
Currently, Dr.Nihal Kulatilake serves as Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, U.K.
Dr. Kulatilake is an active member of professional Sri Lankan organizations in the U.K with membership in the Association of Sri Lankan Professionals in the U.K. and membership in the Sri Lankan Medical and Dental Association. He is also active in helping Sri Lankan doctors find training posts and advisory capacity for career development. In 1994, Dr. Kulatilake with the help of his colleagues took an year of unpaid leave and launched an ambitious project to save foreign currency drain from Sri Lanka and to set up a world class medical facility to do the first ever coronary artery bypass surgery center in Sri Lanka at the Nawaloka Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Prior to this, patients had to go to India for coronary surgery. Over 10,000 patients have now had surgery at this location. In 2000, Dr. Kulatilake established a heart surgery unit at Durdans Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He currently serves as an adviser to the cardiac unit at Durdans Hospital in Sri Lanka. He is also in discussions to set up a cardiac surgical unit in the new Armed Forces Hospital in Sri Lanka. Dr. Nihal Kulatilake serves as external examiner for MD Surgery Examination, College of Surgeons, Sri Lanka. He is also visiting surgeon at Nawaloka and Durdans hospitals in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
In 2013, Dr. Nihal Kulatilake was made a Honorary Fellow of the Sri Lanka College of Surgeons for his service towards training of Sri Lankan cardiac surgeons. Dr. Nihal Kulatilake has 15 major publications in reputed medical journals and 11 abstracts. He is an International Advisor to Asian Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Nihal Kulatilake served as Regional Specialty Advisor in Cardiothoracic Surgery for Wales to the Royal College of Surgeon of England, U.K. He also served as Programme Director for Cardiothoracic surgery for Wales and Chairman STC Cardiothoracic Surgery, Welsh deanery, Wales, UK. In 2011, Dr. Nihal Kulatilake retired briefly from the University Hospital of Wales but was called back to work because a suitable replacement could not be found.
Dr. Nihal Kulatilake lives in Englad with his wife Swarnika. They have 3 children: Anita, a psychiatrist, Samanthi, a general practitioner and Priyantha, a medical student currently doing his Ph.D.