Prof. Marek Rudnicki

Outstanding Figures of the Polish Community

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Prof. Marek Rudnicki from Chicago — an outstanding doctor, scientist, academic lecturer, author, patriotic and social activist, as well as a mountaineer.

Prof. Marek Rudnicki (Source: Google Maps)

Prof. Marek Rudnicki became one of the winners of the prestigious award "For Merits to Poland and Poles Abroad". The award was established by TVP Polonia and has been awarded since 1995 to people who rendered great service to Polish culture and art, education and sport, who contributed to the fame of Poland and Poles in the world. This year's awards ceremony took place on May 8 at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

TVP Polonia awards ceremony, May 8, 2022 (Source: TVP Polonia)

This is not the only honor that prof. Marek Rudnicki obtained. On May 24, in the Hall of the Silesian Sejm in Katowice, the ceremony of awarding the title of "doctor honoris causa" to professor and doctor of medical sciences Marek Rudnicki took place.

Invitation to the ceremony of awarding the title of doctor honoris causa (Source: University of Silesia)

When reading the professor's biography, it is hard to believe that one man can achieve so much.

Professional and Ccientific Career

Professor Marek Rudnicki hails from Łańcut. After graduating from the Medical University of Silesia in 1972, he started his specialization in surgery at the Central Teaching Hospital in Katowice-Ligota. He obtained his doctorate at the same university in 1980 and his habilitation in 1993.

In 1980, as a talented young doctor, Dr. Marek Rudnicki received a Rockefeller scholarship. Unfortunately, the Security Service in Katowice did not issue a permit to leave. This was the case for the next seven years. It was only in 1987 that he went to a scientific congress in Milan, where the European Society of Gastrology and Endoscopy recognized his work as the best in Europe. This resulted in cooperation proposals from several US universities.

In 1987, prof. Rudnicki moved to the United States, working until 1990 at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1990-1999 at Columbia University, New York, and from 1999 at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Prof. Rudnicki is an academic teacher, member of many national and international medical organizations, including the American Society of Surgeons. He is the author and co-author of dozens of publications, scripts and books for students in Polish and English, co-author of the first Polish textbook on minimally invasive surgery. He is also the creator of the Polish-American "Program for Fighting Breast Cancer — Amber Coalition". For many years, he was a member of the Board of the Polish Physicians Association in Chicago, and in 2018-20, the president of this organization.

From 2009 to 2016, he was also the president of the World Federation of Polish Medical Organizations. Since 2017, he has been the honorary president there.

Professor Rudnicki's Patriotic and Social Activity

Already during his medical studies, prof. Marek Rudnicki, together with a group of friends, engaged in political activities against the then ruling communism in Poland, which were illegal at the time. They dreamed of a free homeland. Despite numerous offers to join the Polish United Workers' Party, which could then significantly facilitate a professional career, none of the young doctors from this group of friends did it.

Nevertheless, years later (as Prof. Rudnicki himself recalls), almost all members of this group became outstanding scientists and leaders of their communities.

In 1980, prof. Rudnicki (then 32 years old), together with a group of trusted friends, decided to establish NSZZ "Solidarność" at the Central Teaching Hospital of the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice. During martial law, he was active in the Medical Section of the Bishop's Committee for Aid to Prisoners and Interns "Love and Social Justice".

Regardless of the serious risks associated with it (dismissal from work, loss of a chance for a scientific career, and even imprisonment and repressions for the family), he showed an admirable attitude intervening in the case of many miners shot by ZOMO (paramilitary police) units from the mine "Wujek” on December 16, 1981, whose lives were saved when treated in the Central Teaching Hospital in Katowice-Ligota, against the guidelines of the martial law authorities. Since then, he and his family have become the target over many years of persecution by the Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa, the SB gave him the nickname "Surgeon").

Prof. Rudnicki speaking on TVP Polonia, May 8, 2022 (Source: TVP Polonia)

From the moment of his arrival in the USA in 1987, Professor Rudnicki became actively involved in the activities of the Polish diaspora, became a leader in his environment, always having the good of Poland and Poles in mind. He tried to establish medical and scientific cooperation between the USA and Poland. He also initiated a series of international conferences "Patriotism, Heritage and Medicine" devoted to doctors who contributed to Poland's regaining independence.

Professor Rudnicki is also the creator of radio programs on the National Public Radio (NPR), commemorating the Poles' contribution to the victory over Germany in WWII.

For scientific and patriotic activity, prof. Marek Rudnicki received, among others, Knight's and Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity. He was elected "Outstanding Pole abroad", "Man of the Year," and "Polonus of the Year".

Mountain Passion of the Physician-Climber

Isn't that too much for one man? Well, no! Professor Rudnicki can boast of participating in three significant mountain expeditions with the most outstanding mountaineers in the world. As a doctor of these expeditions, he did not limit himself to waiting for climbers in the base camp. He reached the heights with them.

  • During the first expedition, he climbed to 7,100 m (23,294 ft), which placed him among the world's top doctors-conquerors of the mountains.

  • He made the second expedition with Jerzy Kukuczka, Krzysztof Wielicki and Ryszard Pawłowski to the New Zealand Alps.

  • The third expedition with Tadeusz Piotrowski and Rysiek Kowalewski was the Himalayas.

For prof. Rudnicki, these expeditions became a source of unforgettable experiences and gave birth to a true passion for the mountains. However, there came a point in his life when he had to make a choice. He could not agree to Andrzej Zawada's proposal from August 1987 to participate in the Polish-Canadian expedition to K2. He was leaving within 4 days as an outstanding Polish doctor to the United States. To this day, he has friends among climbers who appreciate him as a partner of high-mountain expeditions.

Prof. Marek Rudnicki, despite his outstanding achievements and merits, remains a modest man, open to the needs of other people. He has a fascinating personality and the qualities of a true gentleman, endearing to people who have met him in person.

I also had the honor when prof. Rudnicki was in Poland, applying (at the instigation of the Polish diaspora in the USA) for the mandate of the Senator of the Republic of Poland in 2019. Then he took second place, obtaining 31.12 percent of the vote. He ran in the Warsaw district, where he lost to the opposition candidate Kazimierz Ujazdowski (54.01 percent of the vote). Among Poles voting in the USA, prof. Rudnicki had overwhelming support (58 percent). To this day, over 20 million people living outside the country and providing aid to the Homeland do not have a single parliamentary representative in Poland.

Next to the poster from the election campaign to the Senate of the Republic of Poland in 2019 (Source: Ania Navas)

Professor Rudnicki continues to praise the good name of Poland — the country he comes from — and is our national pride.

Translated from Polish by Andrew Woźniewicz.

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