The Polish-American Medical Society in Chicago
Związek Lekarzy Polskich w Chicago
by Ewa Radwańska
Związek Lekarzy Polskich (ZLP) in Chicago was established in 1946, initially as “Polish Medical Alliance” and served as an association of Polish physicians, newly-arrived in Illinois as post-WWII exiles. Its activities were aimed at mutual support in obtaining US licences and positions for its members who included medical, dental and veterinary practitioners. Dr. Boleslaw Zietak served as its first president for eight years.
The Polish Medical Alliance was incorporated and registered in Illinois as a non-profit organization in 1951. At its inception the Alliance had 18 members, but by 1953 their number had reached 63. Over the years our organization has grown in strength and expanded its membership and goals. The longest-serving (1955-1974) president – an eminent physician, scientist, philanthropist and Doctor Honoris Causa from Warsaw Medical University – Dr. Alexander Rytel was especially instrumental in spearheading numerous actions supporting charitable and cultural initiatives benefiting Polonia as well as Poland. Two such examples include his active role in erecting the Copernicus monument in front of the Adler Planetarium and participation in Poland’s Millenial celebrations.
Dr. Rytel’s was succeeded by Dr. Wladyslaw Cebulski (1974-1989), a decorated WWII veteran and distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Physicians, whose leadership further consolidated the Society’s stature and charitable activities.
Since 1993 our Society has operated under its current name –The Polish-American Medical Society (PAMS) –and numbers over 400 physicians many specialties.
Also since that time the Society’s presidents are being elected for a maximum of four years (two 2-year terms).
Several of our accomplished colleagues have had an opportunity to make an impact on the organization as presidents of PAMS:
- Dr. Barbara Roniker (research scientist);
- Dr. Jozef Mazurek (OB/GYN), elected for four years twice;
- Dr. Marek Gawrysz (family practice);
- Dr. Anna Szpindor (allergologist);
- Dr. Bronislaw Orawiec (cardiologist); and
- Dr. Kornelia Krol (OB/GYN), the current president.
As a result of their combined leadership and the work of dedicated Boards of Directors, the scope of PAMS activities has grown exponentially. Three educational funds have been established:
- Academic Fund – providing scholarships for Chicago-area students of Polish origin enrolled in medical, dental or veterinary schools;
- Science and Examination Fund – awarding prizes and grants for students’ special achievements or examination needs;
- Scholarship Fund, administered by the Kosciuszko Foundation (KF) – supporting medical scholars who qualify for the KF exchange program from Poland and plan to perform their medical research at a Chicago university.
Every year 10-15 Polonia students of medical sciences are awarded PAMS scholarships of $1,000 – $3,000 each.
It is enormously gratifying that both of our past long-serving illustrious presidents Dr. Rytel and Dr. Cebulski have bequeathed parts of their estates to PAMS’ educational funds, strengthening our mission and allowing us to establish named scholarships in their Memory
Thanks to the long and fruitful cooperation with the Kosciuszko Foundation, over the years more than 20 KF scholars from Poland have had an opportunity to spend 2 – 6 months in Chicago pursuing their research and training in a variety of medical fields; their scholarships typically range between $6,000 and $10,000, as mandated by the US federal guidelines.
Since 1957 annual Physician’s Balls have been our main fundraising events, providing income necessary to support PAMS’ educational funds and many other worthy causes. Over the years numerous Polonia non-profit organizations in Chicago have received our support: Polish Museum of America, Polish-American Association, Amber Coalition, Gift from the Heart Foundation, The Kosciuszko Foundation, Polish Jesuits, ZHP and a variety of local Polish art and music groups.
Since 1992 PAMS has also had very active Sport Section – KS Bronek – under the leadership of Dr. Orawiec, with popular winter ski competitions and summer tennis tournaments.
Annual winter Oplatek and summer family picnics are also long-established traditions. Many members of the Society are regularly involved in charitable and educational activities benefiting Chicago Polonia; examples include cholesterol screenings, asthma awareness, breast cancer prevention, women’s health and many others initiatives.
PAMS is an affiliate of the Chicago Medical Society and an active member of the Federation of Polish Medical Societies Abroad (President: Dr. Marek Rudnicki).
In 2016 the Polish Medical Society in Chicago will celebrate its 70th Anniversary. It owes its success and the strength of its expanding vision not only to the leadership of its Presidents and Boards but also to its Members and Friends who have supported PAMS’ mission over many years. Let’s accomplish even more together!