Damir S. Utrzan 2023 Rising Alumni Award Recipient

Damir S. Utrzan

Dr. Damir S. Utrzan is Manager of Mental Health Services and adjunct assistant professor at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. In his role as manager, Dr. Utrzan oversees various operational aspects of care delivery. Dr. Utrzan was director of an intensive residential treatment services facility operated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services prior to his current role with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He worked closely with various stakeholders to ensure effective delivery of care and uphold licensing requirements from the Minnesota Department of Health and The Joint Commission.

Dr. Utrzan concurrently serves as an unaffiliated research scientist on the Institutional Review Board in the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota. He has also served as a consulting research scientist and grant reviewer with the Administration for Children and Families in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Utrzan has authored several peer-refereed journal articles and book chapters, along with presentations for various professional organizations.

Current Job

Manager of Mental Health Services and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

CEHD Degree

PhD, Family Social Science

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)?

This is a difficult question because so many faculty were influential during my time at the University of Minnesota broadly and the College of Education and Human Development specifically. But I am grateful for everyone who supported me in the Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) Program in the Department of Family Social Science (FSoS) along with the Human Rights Program (HRP). The synergy between clinical practice, research, and human rights advocacy inspired me to pursue my goals beyond what I thought was possible.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The training I received as a clinical scholar has been invaluable to integrating the systemic complexities of managing behavioral health (BH) services. This includes treatment for co-occurring disorders (CODs). The landscape is continuously shifting. The pandemic has compounded the devastating effects of mental health (MH) and substance use (SU) disorders.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

"Influence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen" by Zoe Chance, DBA, MBA.

What gets you excited about work?

"Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near." This sentiment by Brazilian lyricist and Novelist Paulo Coelho captures my excitement of coming to work every day. I am alongside a dedicated team of interdisciplinary professionals striving to improve the lives of others, even when the results are not immediately apparent or visible. Sometimes we never find out what happens to the people we serve. But that is perhaps the goal. They do not return to see us for treatment. Yet there is something magical in that.