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‘Our hearts are broken,’ friend says of Chicago doctor shot in Afghanistan

For 16 years, Dr. Jerry Umanos worked as a pediatrician at a Christian health center in Chicago, then decided in 2005 to travel to Afghanistan to continue his practice and help train doctors. On Thursday, he was one of three American doctors shot to death by an Afghan police officer who opened fire inside one of Kabul’s leading hospitals in the latest deadly attack aimed at foreigners, officials said.

“We have lost a dear friend,” James Brooks, chief ministry officer for the Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago told reporters. “Our hearts are broken. Please pray for us.”

Dr. Bruce Rowell, the chief clinical officer, said Umanos was “for many of us on staff, the pediatrician for our very own children.”

Last summer, Umanos had briefly returned to Chicago then went back to Afghanistan.

The shooting took place at CURE International Hospital of Kabul, which specializes in maternity and pediatric care, according to the group’s website. The facility opened in 2002, began operating as a hospital in 2005 and serves 37,000 patients a year, according to CURE, a Christian medical charity that runs hospitals and health programs in 29 countries.

Two other people were injured in the attack by the police officer, who shot himself and was treated at the hospital, the group said.

According to his biography posted on the Lawndale website, Umanos had worked as a pediatrician there for more than 16 years when he and his wife moved to Afghanistan. Umanos worked at a community health center and at a children’s hospital in Kabul, helping train Afghan doctors.

“Dr. Jerry Umanos practices medicine in both inner-city Chicago and in war-torn Afghanistan,” the biography noted. “Each has its own unique circumstances and challenges. But he has learned that despite these differences, the basic principles of practicing effective medicine are still the same. His experiences at Lawndale Christian Health Center laid a strong foundation for his work on the other side of the world.”

More than 30 staff members from the Lawndale clinic have traveled to Kabul “to assist in teaching physician residents, midwives and community health workers,” the clinic said on its website. “Additionally, many LCHC providers and staff have traveled to countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Indonesia and Liberia.”

Umanos attended medical school at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and did his residency at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, his biography stated.

He is survived by his wife, Jan, and three grown children.

No one answered the door at Umanos’ Chicago home when reporters arrived, according to the website of Channel 5, the NBC Chicago affiliate.

A note on the door simply read, “Please respect our privacy. We have nothing to say right now.”

“I am shocked and saddened to learn that Dr. Jerry Umanos was killed today during an attack at CURE Hospital,” Evan A. Russell, a co-founder and board president of Empowerment Health, another group with which Umanos worked on pediatric issues in Afghanistan.

“Jerry and I first met in Kabul in 2011. ... Since then, in addition to his lifesaving work with CURE Hospital, he helped make that idea, Empowerment Health, a reality. Jerry and I worked closely for years to develop and implement training programs that provide local Afghan women with basic health education and skills to provide critical health services and best practices in their communities.

“Our efforts in the community will continue on, and we remain deeply committed to the mission to which he devoted his life, but Jerry’s daily impact on this program, and on so many other people, will be missed forever,” Russell said in a statement.
 

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