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Meet Deseree Irving, CUNY Medical Student and SHARE Learner

Silver Hill Hospital

On July 31st, Silver Hill Hospital welcomed fourth year medical student, Deseree Irving, to campus for a psychiatry rotation working alongside Elizabeth Ortiz-Schwartz, MD, DFAPA, Team Lead, Adolescent Inpatient Unit, as well as observing and participating in other related programs.  

Deseree came to Silver Hill through a recent collaboration between the Silver Hill Academy for Research and Education (SHARE) and the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine, offering five CUNY medical students rotation opportunities at Silver Hill Hospital each year.   The program is directed by Jeffrey Katzman, MD, Director of Education, and is one of several SHARE programs offered to students pursuing careers in psychiatry, psychology, and the mental health field.  

“Deseree has been such a positive force on campus,” says Dr. Katzman. “Her intuition, energy, and intelligence surround her, and have truly touched our team members and patients.” Dr. Ortiz-Schwartz agrees, “During her rotation, Deseree took every opportunity to learn and to assimilate her learnings into a larger framework. She has a remarkable capacity for growth and comprehension.  Deseree’s responses to our collective work at Silver Hill have reinforced the value and impact of what we do each day, and also recognize our patients’ deep commitments to improving their own health and wellbeing.”  

Meet Deseree Irving 

When did you decide to go to medical school?

I always had an interest in medicine. I grew up with close relatives affected by chronic health conditions and had a childhood friend and classmate with a serious illness. As a kid, it’s hard to understand what would keep someone out of school for 2 years.  You hear words like ‘leukemia,’ and they’re terrifying, but you don’t really understand them. I wanted to.  

With this in mind, I found biology and science classes to be the most stimulating, and this interest, in combination with the other factors, brought me to medicine.  I was also inspired by two of my older siblings who work in medicine. I have a brother in surgery and a sister in pediatrics. Hearing about their experiences and loving the visits to their campuses was also a large factor that led me to apply. I actually made the decision to go through the Sophie Davis/CUNY School of Medicine program based on all I had learned about it through my sister who had gone there as well.

When/how did you decide that you wanted to be a psychiatrist?

I originally wanted to go into pediatrics. But my first rotation in 3rd year was psychiatry and hearing the patients’ subjective experiences piqued my interest and I found working to create individualized treatment plans very interesting.  In psychiatry, unlike many other disciplines, the same treatment is not going to work for everybody with the same diagnosis. Each patient needs a unique combination of medication and therapy. And with mental illness, there isn’t always a “cure,” treatment is often ongoing —to help an individual manage their condition and function in society throughout their life. 

Right now, I am planning to pursue Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. With early intervention you can dramatically change the trajectory of lives and increase the likelihood of your patients living full and successful lives, which is what I am most passionate about.

How have you been spending your time at Silver Hill Hospital? Do you have any particular insights or initial reactions to the work you are doing?  

I’ve been working with Dr. Ortiz-Schwartz in the adolescent unit.  In the mornings, we meet with all patients in the inpatient unit as well as some adults.  We have parent meetings, and I also have the chance to sit in on DBT and process groups. Some afternoons, I go to other units and have been able to take part in other aspects of care such as Admissions, NCUA, and the Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program.

Last week, I spent time in K-House (Klingenstein House, Silver Hill’s Transitional Living Program for teens ages 13 to 17). I attended multidisciplinary rounds; sat in on family meetings with patients and parents; observed intensive DBT sessions; saw Psychodrama sessions and other experiential forms of therapy. 

I have been introduced to forms of psychiatric care I haven’t seen before, and it’s been very reaffirming. The kids are young and engaged and they are actively trying to identify problems and then use the skills they are being taught and the resources they have to help figure them out and build their emotional intelligence. I have been genuinely surprised at how insightful some of the participants can be and how much they understand and are trying to learn more about themselves and what’s important to their health. It really showed how important and helpful it can be for children to have this supportive environment away from their daily stressors to work through their mental health challenges.

Going through this rotation at Silver Hill has definitely made me more self-aware, especially through the DBT sessions I have been a part of, and just being in this field is healing in itself.

What are your plans after you finish up at Silver Hill?

When I leave Silver Hill Hospital, I’m going right to my next rotation in Ambulatory Pediatrics at NYU Langone, Long Island. Then, on September 24th, I’m traveling to Tulane for a psychiatry rotation that focuses on the integration of medical and mental health in children and adolescents.

At the end of this school year, I’m planning to do a ‘Triple Board Residency,’ an integrated training program focused on pediatrics, general psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry.  There are only 10 of these residency programs in the country. I would like to work on the integration of care in the primary care setting and work with families to repair challenging family dynamics that are large contributors to the mental health conditions seen in many of the adolescents that come in for treatment.

There are a lot of different doors of possibility, and I’m both excited and nervous for the future.