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Meet Dona Kiriella, CUNY Medical Student and SHARE Learner

Silver Hill Hospital

In late August, as summer turned to fall, and back to school was in the air, Dona Kiriella arrived to the Silver Hill Hospital campus ready for her rotation in psychiatry.  A 4th year medical student, Dona had recognized her interest in psych during other clinical rotations and was eager to take her place alongside Silver Hill’s exceptional Neuropsychiatric team for the month — an opportunity to observe and participate in their work and witness first-hand their profound impact on Silver Hill patients. 

Dona (at right in photo above with Dr. Michael Groat, PhD and Dr. Suma Srishaila, MD) came to Silver Hill through a collaboration between the Silver Hill Academy for Research and Education (SHARE) and the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine, which offers rotations at Silver Hill Hospital to five CUNY medical students 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.

“Dona has been such a welcome presence and addition to our team these past several weeks,” says Dr. Suma Srishaila, MD, psychiatrist in the Neuropsych division.  “This is an area of complex and nuanced work that we approach as a clinically detailed and cohesive team focused on multidimensional care.  Dona arrived gently, absorbed and offered her perspectives with thoughtfulness and caring.  Her intelligence and sensitivity have made a significant impression on all those she met.”  Dr. Howard Weiner, MD, seconds this sentiment, “Dona has been a wonderful student on our service. She is thoughtful, knowledgeable and deeply caring. She will make a fine psychiatrist.”

Meet Dona Kiriella

When did you decide to go to medical school?

“I always wanted to become a doctor, even at a young age. When I was in high school, I saw how the dengue fever outbreak in Sri Lanka impacted my uncle who’s a general practitioner. There were limited resources in response to the epidemic, but seeing the compassion, breadth of knowledge, and dexterity my uncle had to handle the load of patients encouraged me to apply to the Sophie Davis Biomedical Program.”

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

“I entered my third year of medical school with an open mind. My first rotation was Family Medicine and of all the cases I saw, I enjoyed seeing the psychiatric cases. In my Psychiatric rotation at Staten Island University Hospital, I was further drawn to the range of psychiatric cases during the consultant-liaison service. The integration of medicine with psychiatry challenged me to think.

Looking back on my third year, I enjoyed all my rotations and saw psychiatric cases within each rotation. In Surgery, there was a trauma case; in Ob/Gyn, there was a post-partum psychosis case; in Internal Medicine, there were substance use cases.  As I went through each rotation, I was ultimately drawn to psychiatry.”

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’m working with Neuropsychiatric Team seeing a range of schizophrenia and psychosis cases. It’s gratifying to see how the treatments help the patients move on to long-term living and everyday life.

I have seen a range of treatments including ECT, psychotherapy, and psychodrama, which is very evocative and effective at eliciting emotions. At Silver Hill, I was surprised to have seen as many different aspects of psychiatry in one place; different treatments, stages and progression of patients as they respond to the care.”

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

After I leave Silver Hill Hospital, I’ll be rotating at Jacobi Medical Center for CPEP. In October, I’ll be interning at NYC Health & Hospitals Central Office, where I will be working closely with the Senior Advisor for Behavioral Health Communications and Policy. Looking ahead for residency, I’m excited to be part of a psychiatry program and further my learning.

What do you do in you free time – such as it is?

In my free time, I like to bake, try out new foods, and go to the gym. Right now, my favorite thing to bake is Italian pignoli cookies.