I was born and raised in Poland. I admired my parents, who were terrific doctors, and was very impressed with their accomplishments. So, I followed in their footsteps and decided to become a physician. I graduated from Gdansk Medical School when the Solidarity movement was on the rise in the early 80s. I got involved in political activism because I wanted to see my country steer away from socialism and Soviet influence. Unfortunately, we weren’t successful, and Poland fell deep into a depression.
So, my husband and I decided to leave with our two little kids, 2 and 4, searching for a better life. We spent six months in Italy, and we applied for a US visa, which we were granted, and arrived in Los Angeles on January 9th, 1987.
I worked extremely hard to obtain certification for my Polish medical license. I finished my residency at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, followed by a fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. After completing my training, I joined the Children’s Hospital of Orange County as a board-certified neonatologist and worked here for 22 years and counting. I also own and serve as the medical director of Visage Laser & Skincare Center.
KISH: What is your dream and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?
Dr. Katarzyna: My dream was always to become a good doctor and to help improve people’s lives. I am proud to have accomplished that by saving the lives of countless sick babies and premature babies. I have three beautiful children, and two of them are doctors already, while the third is in medical school. I count that as a major accomplishment because they will carry my legacy of serving other people.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?
Dr. Katarzyna: It was definitely my parents who inspired me. As well as my incredible drive to achieve the difficult task of becoming a doctor in this US.
KISH: What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream?
Dr. Katarzyna: My husband and I came here with our two kids and no possessions. Our luggage got lost on the way, so we came here with nothing. We worked very hard supporting each other, and somehow, I never doubted that I would accomplish my dreams. Another challenge was passing the US Medical Licensing Exams as a foreign medical graduate. Many people don’t realize how complicated it is for a foreign medical graduate to become a physician in the US. It was a highly demanding process; raising two children, preparing for the exams, and working simultaneously.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Dr. Katarzyna: Nothing would happen without my incredibly supportive husband. We met in high school and have been together for 50 years. He was the one who supported me and helped me overcome all of my challenges. While I was studying to pass the licensing exams, he was carrying most of the responsibilities. Together we work perfectly in tune with each other. He’s the one who always believed in me.
KISH: Please provide final thoughts/advice for others by finishing this sentence… dream.
Dr. Katarzyna: Dream about everything; your goals, your life, your accomplishments. Then, achieve them once you wake up. Take every step towards your dreams, and you’ll eventually get to the finish line.
In doing that, first, you have to have God in your life because nothing would happen without him. Second, to have integrity in everything you do. This way, people can appreciate who you are, and they’ll be very supportive of you. You can go a long way if you have integrity. Third, to have a partner who will be there for you, even in the darkest days when you doubt yourself. Lastly, perseverance is critical. Never trust the naysayers, and just keep pushing.