The Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department recently welcomed Katarzyna Litak, MD, FASAM, as the new Medical Director of the Child and Adolescent inpatient unit at University of Minnesota Medical Center. She was most recently a psychiatrist at Choices Psychotherapy in the Twin Cities. Prior to that, Litak spent 21 years with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Plymouth, MN. She was drawn to work with children and teenagers when she was a medical student, and she is drawn to psychiatry because of its investigative nature. “You must investigate what drives people,” she said.

Working safely and efficiently
In her new role, Litak is overseeing three mental health units. “It’s always a challenge to build a new team that trusts one another and works well together,” she said. “My goal for the team is to learn how to work safely and efficiently while satisfying our patients and providing evidence-based care.”

Katarzyna Litak, MD

Litak (pictured here) already has a history with the University, having completed her psychiatry residency and a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry here. She completed her medical degree at Wroclaw Medical University in Poland, as well as a transitional year at County and Wroclaw Medical University Psychiatric Hospital.

Strengthening bridges
Because she has worked in several different settings, Litak has seen how fragmented mental health services can be. “When I practiced, it was easier to see a psychiatrist than a therapist,” she said. “Therapy is an important part of treatment and patients who never saw a mental health provider in their lives were able to see me, but not a therapist. It should be the other way around.” She is hoping to strengthen some of those bridges in her new role.

One of the aspects of child and adolescent psychiatry that Litak enjoys is the teamwork involved in the treatment process. “We are uniquely equipped to work with teams; it’s a vital part of our training,” she said. “I’m very excited to be back working with teams and want my team members to know that they will have a voice in our processes.”

Researching immigration issues
Litak has built her management and research skills by leading the Minneapolis Polish Medical Society. Interestingly, the Society has four funded grants that is enabling her and other members to complete a documentary photography/oral history project that focuses on issues faced by Poles who immigrated to Minnesota following World War II. The group has had exhibitions of their work in various places throughout the Twin Cities.

“Most people don’t know what the immigration process looks and feels like,” Litak said. An immigrant herself, she would like to focus her own research on the complexity of the issues that immigrants face.

When Litak has free time, she enjoys photography and graphic/website design.

She will start seeing patients sometime in September 2022 and is currently focusing on her medical director role.