The Polish-American Medical Society in Chicago
Zwiazek Lekarzy Polskich w Chicago
Zwiazek Lekarzy Polskich (ZLP) in Chicago was established in 1946, initially as the “Polish Medical Alliance,” and served as an association of Polish physicians that had newly-arrived in Illinois as post-WWII exiles. As that time, the main goals of the organization were to provide support in obtaining US licenses and to help find positions in the medical, dental and veterinary fields. Dr. Boleslaw Zietak served as the 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 the number had grown to 63. Over the years the organization has grown in strength and has 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 his participation in Poland’s millennial 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.
The Society has operated under its current name – The Polish-American Medical Society (PAMS) – since 1993. It is composed of over 400 physicians of many different specialties. The president can serve two-year terms, for a maximum of four years.
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 combined leadership and the work of a dedicated Board of Directors, the scope of PAMS activity has grown exponentially. There are currently three educational funds 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 on carrying out their medical research projects at a Chicago university.
Every year 10-15 Polonia students 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 the above scholarships in their memory.
Thanks to a 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 US federal guidelines.
Since 1957, annual Physician’s Balls have been our main fundraising events, providing the 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. They are: The Polish Museum of America, The Polish-American Association, The Amber Coalition, The 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!
Ewa Radwańska, MD, PhD