Q & A with Gina Capalbo, D.O.
Chief of Psychiatry
Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital
Dr. Gina Capalbo is a clinically trained forensic psychiatrist at Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland, Michigan, where she leads the psychiatry department and consults on forensic-related clinical issues. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Bates College and, upon graduation, worked at Wediko Children’s Services, a residential program for boys with social, emotional, and behavioral issues in New Hampshire. She was subsequently accepted to University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM) and received a Health Professional Scholarship with the United States Navy (USN). At UNECOM, she was a part of Sigma Sigma Phi and earned the Gold Touch Award for her community service performed while in medical school.
Upon completion of medical school, Dr. Capalbo was commissioned as a lieutenant in the USN and completed an internship in psychiatry at Naval Medical Center San Diego. She then went on to completing an Undersea Medicine Tour. During her Undersea Tour, she attended submarine and dive school for physicians and was specialty trained to work with Navy divers, submariners, and S.E.A.L.s. She was stationed at a submarine and dive billet at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she was the division officer for the Undersea Clinic and provided general and occupational health for the submariners and divers. During her time in the Navy, she earned her Undersea, Dive, and Submarine Officer Qualifications and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
Upon completion of her Navy tour, Dr. Capalbo was accepted and completed her psychiatry residency training at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan. She then completed the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program at the University of Michigan.
Where are you from?
I am originally from the smallest, but mightiest state in the United States, Rhode Island. However, I have lived in several areas of the nation for schooling and my service in the Unites States Navy, including California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida, and Connecticut. My destination is Michigan where I live with my partner and daughter.
Why did you choose the University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine for your training?
I joined the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship through the University of Michigan because I was residing in Michigan and wanted to join a well-established program. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with world-renowned female forensic psychiatrists, Drs. Debra Pinals and Elissa Benedek, and other equally accomplished forensic psychiatrists and psychologists at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.
What is most memorable about your forensic psychiatry fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry?
A unique aspect of the fellowship was attending a course through the University of Michigan’s School of Law taught by Dr. Debra Pinals. It provided insight into how I could articulate my psychiatric and medical knowledge to lawyers, and I gained an appreciation for how psychiatry was viewed from a legal perspective. This was an impactful experience and I have carried it through my career.
Where are you now and what does your work focus on?
I am currently the Chief of Psychiatry at Walter P. Reuther Psychiatry Hospital in Westland, Michigan. My job entails the treatment of forensic patients, providing clinical supervision over the psychiatric team at Walter Reuther, clinical consultation for challenging patients and forensic related issues, and continuing to complete forensic evaluations through the Center of Forensic Psychiatry. We have also started a residency training site for several local training programs this past year.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I have always seen myself as an inpatient psychiatrist first, so I really enjoy working with complex psychiatric patients.
How do you think that your current work has benefited from your fellowship training?
My fellowship training has been highly impactful in everyday work, whether it is determining the appropriate level of care for a patient, assisting with a medical-legal question, or providing teaching for residents. Furthermore, I plan to expand and do more private forensic work as my career progresses.
How has the care of psychiatric patients been impacted by the COVID pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made management of long-term patients in state hospitals challenging with continued quarantine and isolation that can last months for a single unit. We have been fortunate that with education, most of our patient community has been able to appreciate the severity of the circumstances and follow guidelines.
What is your favorite memory of your time in Ann Arbor?
I had the opportunity to meet, connect, and develop long-term friendships and professional mentors that I continue to communicate with since graduation.
What are some things you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, taking my dogs for walks, and exercising. My family enjoys water and water-related activities, so we are looking forward to the summer coming up soon!
You are still living in southeast Michigan: what do you enjoy about living in the area post-training?
I continue to live in southeast Michigan and enjoy the Midwest hospitality.