Melding Medicine and Politics to Create a Safer Society: Interview with Dr. Prunskis

Melding Medicine and Politics to Create a Safer Society: Interview with Dr. Prunskis

John Prunskis, M.D. FIPP, co-founder of the Illinois Pain Institute, recently had the honor of sharing his story with Bridges, a Lithuanian-American news journal based in the United States. In it, Dr. Prunskis discusses not just his medical career and approach to the precise diagnosis and treatment of painful conditions, but also his Lithuanian heritage and his accomplishments in his years in the Lithuanian Parliament Commission. Below are some excerpts from the piece, which we encourage you to read in full.

On growing up a first-generation American.

Lithuania was an abstract concept to me when I was five or six years old. All we knew was that we had to speak Lithuanian at home, we had to go to a Lithuanian school on Saturdays, and we joined various organizations like Ateitininkai, Scouts, etc. My story is not unique. Many people of my age who settled in this country have similar stories.

On visiting Lithuania under Soviet rule.

I remember that in 1969 we snuck out to where my grandparents’ large farm was. It is called Žvilbučiai. … Žvilbučiai was a dvaras or a large farm estate of my grandparents. I had never seen it, I only heard about it, and I was the first Prunskis to be there since June 14th, 1941. I remember we stopped to ask for directions, and the person looked into the car and asked in Lithuanian “Ar čia gal yra Prunskių?” (Is there a Prunskis here?). He was a neighbor who remembered my family. We said “No” since we were traveling without a permit.

On his years in the Lithuanian Parliament.

My Parliamentary initiatives that were successful sometimes took up to seven years. It was initiated in our commission that Lithuania must meet its NATO obligation of 2% of its GDP going to its defense. We were the first ones to bring that officially to the Parliament. … We just would not let it go. You have to understand, the members of the Parliament would be saying: “You keep bringing the same thing back.” Well, we would not be bringing it back if you would change it and if it wasn’t so important.

On melding politics and medicine to create a safer society.

In 2007, I introduced legislation in the State of Illinois to monitor if a patient is getting narcotics from more than one doctor. It took about four years for the legislation to pass. One thing I learned in politics is that you have to be patient. You can be passionate but you have to be patient and not take things personally. Finally, in 2011 it became a law.

On sustaining his Lithuanian heritage.

For the first five years of my married life, my wife had no idea what I was saying to my children because it was a hundred percent in Lithuanian. So that was a difficult thing for her, however, she supported it.

For more information on Bridges, click here.