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OC Plastic Surgeon Dr. Juris Bunkis Sworn In – Honorary Consul Republic of Latvia

Growing up I never dreamed that I would become a plastic surgeon, and I certainly did not think I would become consul for the Republic of Latvia. I was born of Latvian parents in a refugee camp in Germany after WWII. My parents immigrated to Canada, where I went to high school and completed college and medical school at the University of Toronto. After finishing my residencies in general surgery at Columbia University, and plastic surgery at Harvard University, I taught at the University of California, San Francisco prior to entering private practice in 1984.

Throughout my professional career I have done a lot of volunteer work. It was never a conscious decision to be involved with the needs of others outside of my practice it was something that just became a part of my life. In the early days, I made many medical mission trips to Guatemala and elsewhere to work with other surgeons performing cleft palate repair surgeries in impoverished villages. I have organized multiple charity events, coached sports teams, sat on the Little League Board of Directors, and have been a volunteer deputy with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department for many years.

My children were very involved with sports and we did not have much time to spend with the Latvian community.   You can imagine my surprise when I received a call from the Latvian Embassy in Washington, DC in 2010 asking if I’d consider accepting a role as the honorary consul for Latvia in Los Angeles!   Not knowing anything about the task, I requested information and received a diplomatic pouch containing applications and description of duties.   My parents encouraged me to donate some of my efforts and time to the country of our origin and I accepted the challenge. I made trips to Washington, DC and Riga, Latvia for interviews and I was chosen for the position and received my diplomat ID from the US State Department, signed by Hillary Clinton!

What does my position entail?   Shortly after being appointed, I was notified by the foreign ministry in Riga that the Prime Minister would be traveling to LA with an entourage of ten politicians and some fifty business executives.   It was my duty to arrange this visit, every minutest detail. I was to coordinate all movements with the US Secret Service detail, to plan all the meetings and social events, to arrange transportation and meals – much of it on my dime!   The meetings were a great success and during the time the Prime Minister was here, I promised to bring a trade delegation to Riga the following summer, which I did along with heads of corporations such as Boeing, Proctor and Gamble and Warner Brothers, among others. We brought a very large trade delegation to Riga of some 30 plus companies!   I was able to arrange meetings with numerous government ministers, the Prime Minister and President, along with many very interesting social outings as well. I was interviewed on television and by print media multiple times. The actions was nonstop for five days.

The consulate is located in my office in Newport Beach, CA.   I have daily tasks to perform as the local consul. I receive inquiries daily about passports, visas and citizenship. We do not issue passports at my office but I do have to help people get the right information to the Latvian Embassy in Washington, DC. My role is very different from my role as a surgeon. I receive calls from Latvian citizens who have been robbed or put in jail, from relatives who want to know how to legally transport ashes back to Latvia, and a whole host of other unusual requests.   Most of the inquiries I get pertain to business, including Latvian companies looking for markets or partners in the US, film makers wanting to place their films into festivals, and US small business owners inquiring about companies or tax laws in Latvia.   What I love the most about this position is the absolute intellectual rush – my wife, Tina and I, receive invitations to monthly consular meetings in LA which always have fantastic speakers and venues, we get invited when important people visit LA (everything from professors giving talks to foreign dignitaries), and have been invited to a couple of events in LA for national days, emperor’s birthday celebrations, mayoral inaugurations, meetings with Congressmen and Senators, tours of studios and meetings with CEO’s of the various film companies. I have loved my plastic surgery profession; it has been very good to me.   And now I am equally honored and blessed to be a diplomat of another kind. For more information visit www.ocps.com.

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