Community health was always a passion of Canadian Biruntha Sritharan. After completing her undergraduate studies in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology and Special Education, both at the University of Toronto, Biruntha took on challenging roles at various Toronto community health agencies. She also helped grassroots charities such as the South Asian Autism Centre develop critical program infrastructure to better support newcomer families who had children on the autism spectrum. These roles deeply embedded Biruntha within her community and gave her opportunities to work with diverse stakeholders with a goal of supporting recent immigrants with their economic and health needs.
These experiences also helped Biruntha realize she could better serve her community if she pursued her education further in medicine. She learned about Saba from several acquaintances and set her sights exclusively on the school. “I had lived a formative life before I came to Saba, so honestly I didn’t find the academic workload too difficult, and motivation certainly wasn’t an issue. While it may have been a bit daunting at first I knew that I had made the right choice”. She quickly made friends in her class, found the professors welcoming and personable, and particularly appreciated the Saba mentor program in helping her in advance to prepare for med school. She said that Saba taught her to be versatile and adaptive, particularly in her clinical rotations.
Biruntha's heart was always set on coming back to Toronto for her residency. Saba was able to help her take her electives in Canada. “I did a pediatric rotation in Manitoba; Emergency Medicine in Montreal; Geriatric Psychology at Queens; and Emergency Psychology at Western University. These electives helped me in attaining more clinical experience in Canada. I matched into the Psychiatry Residency Program at University of Toronto, my first choice.”
Biruntha's passion for community health remains incredibly strong. While working at University of Toronto, where she recently received entry to a subspecialty in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, she continues to volunteer her time with multiple community health initiatives focusing on mental health and child development issues in high needs Toronto neighborhoods.
Biruntha's community focus has firmly guided her journey. "With my diverse background and strong advocacy lens, my goal is to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist with a specific focus in cultural psychiatry and developmental trauma."
"Saba was an important time in my life - it helped me accelerate my dreams to become reality. It put me in a great position for me to follow through on my areas of interest. I am truly grateful for this meaningful journey."