Alumnus talks to students about career in treating pain

1973 Alumnus John Prunskis talks to students at lunch on Oct. 7.

1973 Alumnus John Prunskis talks to students at lunch on Oct. 7.

Colin Leslie, Reporter

John Prunskis, a 1973 Laboratory Schools alumnus and co-founder of the Illinois Pain Institute, a multi-site private medical practice based in the Chicago area, spoke with 10 U-High students, faculty and staff Oct. 7 at lunch about his career path and time as a representative of Lithuanian Americans in the Parliament of Lithuania.

Prompted by a question from Michael Zarobe, director of alumni relations, about whether Dr. Prunskis knew what career path he wanted to take while he was at Lab, Dr. Prunskis said he did not know until he was a freshman in college.

“Not at all. I was thinking about, you know, just having friends and playing soccer,” Dr. Prunskis said. “The group of friends I came into contact with in college, most of them wanted to be doctors, and I said, ‘OK, I’ll do that too.’”

Dr. Prunskis completed his anesthesiology residency at the University of Chicago, where he said he started to receive an increasing number of patients with aches and pains, and the experience he obtained treating these patients developed into a passion.

Responding to a question from Megan Resener, development associate for alumni relations and development, Dr. Prunskis spoke about his work with the Illinois Department of Public Health during the coronavirus pandemic to continue the practice of pain procedures.

“You cannot limit pain procedures that are helping to fix the problem because the opioid crisis that still exists is going to skyrocket,” Dr. Prunskis said. “People are just going to turn to narcotics to deal with their pain.”

In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Prunskis is currently serving his third term in the Parliament of Lithuania as a representative for Lithuanian Americans. 

He said his three biggest accomplishments in his time as a representative have been transforming Lithuania’s labor code, initiating the process for Lithuania to honor their North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitment of 2% GDP and helping to pass laws to reduce the problem of alcoholism in Lithuania.

After receiving a question from senior Danny Han, Dr. Prunskis said students should find something they love to do and pursue it.

“What am I passionate about, and what am I good at? Follow that trajectory,” Dr. Prunskis said. “People say ‘please don’t retire,’ and I say ‘I’m gonna retire when I’m 109,’ because I love what I do.”