Meet new faculty member Priyantha Herath

Name: Priyantha Herath

Current job: Assistant professor of neurology, School of Medicine (Columbia)

Degrees: M.D., University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; Ph.D., Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Where are you from originally? I was born and bred in Sri Lanka, the teardrop-shaped small island by the southern tip of India that was known as the Island of Serendib for thousands of years.

Where do you consider “home"? I have no home. Every place I live in becomes my home. I am adaptable, and I adopt what is around me. Still, the rain here reminds me of the monsoons in Sri Lanka. I love these big raindrops and the gray skies and the lightning and running in the rain. That is like how we grew up.

What’s your area of study or research? I am a movement disorders specialist neurologist. That means we treat neurological conditions that lead to too much or too little movement — like Parkinson’s disease or tremors or Huntington’s disease or writer’s cramp, for example.

That is what I treat in the clinic. My research training is in cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging. Currently, I am looking at what the brain does and the chemistry behind some unusual symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and dystonia.

Why did you choose Carolina? When I spoke with my chairman, Dr. Sen, about the opportunity, it seemed like a perfect fit — an opportunity to build a multidisciplinary movement disorders clinic, availability of time and resources to engage in clinic and willing senior faculty from many other departments to collaborate with. These are things that are hard to find these days in academia. So the decision was easy.

What are you most looking forward to this year? To lay the groundwork for a solid movement disorders clinic, and to get started on my research, to teach, to shape some young minds to take the next big steps in our fields.

What are you most looking forward to about being at Carolina? To stay here for a long time, to teach the medical students and the residents, and to work with the other scientists to build a collaborative research project, and in the meantime also have a fulfilling life.

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