2017 Top Doctor: Suzanne Don, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2017
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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Med School/Year Graduated: University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1990
Years in Practice: 18

What prompted you to go into this field?
My late father was a psychiatrist and exposed me to the importance of mental health. I’ve always loved kids, so child psychiatry was the perfect fit. It was also essential for me to choose a field that allowed for a good work-family balance.

What are the unique challenges of child psychiatry? What are the unique rewards?
As a child’s care requires parental participation, the biggest challenge is when family members differ in their views about the issues or the treatment plan. The most rewarding part is being able to see the impact of treatment on a child’s life (e.g. becoming more social or doing better at school).

What are the most common mental health issues plaguing children today?
Mental health issues I frequently see in my practice include anxiety/OCD, depression/other mood disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder), ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and eating disorders.

Have you maintained contact with any of your patients into adulthood?
I have some patients who continue to see me as they enter college, graduate and start careers and families. It’s extremely rewarding to see this progression of their lives.

How can parents determine if their child needs to see a psychiatrist?
Parents should seek professional help when there are issues that adversely impact upon a child’s functioning (academic performance, social interactions or participation in activities) or threats of self-harm.

Do you think overuse of smart phones and other devices poses a mental health risk?
Excessive screen time/smart phone use can definitely pose a risk to mental health. This may include irritability/agitation, difficulties with memory and focus, and poor sleep quality. As a result, there are frequently issues with social and academic functioning.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love spending time with family and friends, traveling, cooking, reading and listening to music. I also enjoy working out at Jabz Boxing every morning before work. It’s a great way to start my day and a fabulous stress reliever.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be a chef or a performer in Broadway musicals (but I would need to obtain some talent first!).