Meet Dr. Emil Pajek, emergency medicine physician
Fri, Dec 4, 2020
“Why shouldn’t you be a doctor?”
That question changed Emil Pajek’s life forever.
“I woke up one day and I just had the thought in my head,” Pajek says. “The question was nagging enough to follow and from that moment on everything was simple. My life completely changed. I had a purpose in life.”
Pajek was 19. He decided he would “let life happen” to him and that whatever his life had in store for him, he would “just go,” he says.
Today, Pajek is a physician with BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians, seeing patients at Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County in Two Rivers
But for 19-year-old Emil Pajek, it wasn’t easy to “just go” and become a doctor.
“I grew up in Poland,” Pajek says. “At that time, Poland was under socialism and behind the so-called Iron Curtain.” The Iron Curtain was the non-physical barrier that divided Europe from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War, from 1945 to 1991.
Countries east of the Iron Curtain, including Poland, were under the strict control of the Soviet Union.
“We didn’t have passports,” Pajek says. “We were not allowed to travel outside of the country. You had to have special permission.”
Eager to explore the world, Pajek couldn’t. However, it was his desire to become a doctor that helped him eventually do so.
Pajek began his journey in the medical field by earning his medical degree from the Medical University of Gdansk in Poland.
Fortunately, Pajek was granted official training. This meant that under restricted conditions, he could leave Poland to complete some of his medical rotations.
Pajek traveled to the United Kingdom. Once he got there, he “just kept moving forward,” he says. Then he traveled to Canada and to the United States.
“That was before the Berlin Wall fell” in 1989, Pajek says. “I remember when I was in college, in medical school, Ronald Reagan was in power in the U.S. Between him and Margaret Thatcher, and the Polish pope at the time, John Paul II, they basically helped to free the eastern countries from socialistic oppression. I’m very lucky that I managed to get out.”
Pajek completed his medical residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He obtained his green card and years later, U.S. citizenship.
However, Pajek couldn’t stay in Pennsylvania. The local job market was saturated with doctors. St. Luke’s Hospital produced 30 doctors a year, Pajek says. He needed to make a move.
“Being Polish, I look into Midwest and obviously all of Midwest is Polish and German community and Norwegian, so I pretty much felt like at home. That was (a) no-brainer for me. I just decided Midwest is the place to go and I started (to) look. There were lots of good offers.”
Pajek landed in Milwaukee and began practicing full-time emergency medicine care.
“I love where I am and what I’m doing,” Pajek says of his role with BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians. “It couldn’t be any better.”
Pajek likes the surprise factor that emergency medicine presents and that it’s intellectually challenging. However, one of the biggest challenges is quickly establishing a relationship with a patient that’s receiving emergency care.
“Now if they walk through the door or come by ambulance to the emergency room, they are scared,” Pajek says. “They don’t know you. You have some foreign accent. Now your job is to break through all those barriers and try to help those people. You want to give people some reassurance and some comfort that they will be taken care of. That you will do everything you can. That we are the same humans that they are. That we are here to help them. And sometimes it’s a big challenge. It’s very challenging. No question about (it).”
Outside of work, Pajek enjoys flying airplanes. His favorite is a Piper Cherokee 300.
“I’ve been flying for 20 years,” Pajek says. “I have a commercial license and I have instrument rating. High-performance airplane endorsement and about 1,100 hours in the air.”
Pajek mainly flies airplanes around Wisconsin and its surrounding states.
The Pajek family also has traveled the world. Pajek has been to Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and his homeland – Poland.
Pajek’s favorite country is Nepal. When he is there, he takes every available opportunity to go trekking in the mountains.
“When you go trekking, you stay high up but you’re on your own feet,” Pajek says. “You can get to wonderful places without any equipment, minimal risk and cost. You don’t have to be a professional. You can use your hands to take pictures while walking on your own feet. I like that part.”
Pajek’s favorite trek is the Gokyo Trek in the high Himalayas of the Everest region. He also has trekked to Everest Base Camp with one of his children.
Pajek also enjoys skiing with his family in Colorado.
Having dreamed of traveling and exploring the world as a boy, Pajek is living out his dreams.
“For me, America is the old-fashioned American dream,” Pajek says. “I escaped the oppressed country and society and I enjoy the freedom of America. I love it.”
Dr. Emil Pajek is a physician with BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians. He sees patients in Two Rivers.
About BayCare Clinic
BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.