Photo by Cameron Wittig
Michael K. Popkin of HCMC
Chief of Psychiatry / Hennepin County Medical Center
Top Doctors Designee:
1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014
You worked as a consultant at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter for eight years. What was that like?
Most of the people in the Security Hospital have a history of having injured somebody or seriously hurt themselves. Part of it was very intriguing, about what drives people to engage in those kinds of behaviors and what you can do to try to regress them. It toughened me up a bit, and it gave me a better perspective on how to deal with the things we see at HCMC on a more regular basis.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a psychiatrist?
People who’ve been profoundly depressed, or somebody who‘s been actively suicidal—to see them turn around and resume their life and become effective and functioning, that’s where the satisfaction is.
If you could talk to yourself at the beginning of your career, what advice would you give?
That you need to be willing to question what has otherwise been orthodox. You have to be willing to confront the difficult issues. And you have to find a way to relate to the patient. Clinically, that’s the most important thing. At least in psychiatry.
If a friend or relative were seeking treatment in your field, what three questions would you tell them to ask?
I think first thing is you want to know as much as you can about the potential provider’s credentials and qualifications: where they trained, whether they’re board certified, and so on. Second, you want to try to establish to what extent that individual has expertise in the particular problem that you’re facing. And the third is to think of the initial meeting as a kind of exploratory meeting to figure out whether you and the provider actually fit, whether you’re going to be able to work with one another.