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Slain Chicago doctor's tireless work remembered

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 3:53 p.m. CDT
(AP Photo/Courtesy of the Lawndale Christian Health Center, Bernardo Barrios)
This undated photo provided by the Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago, shows Dr. Jerry Umanos, one of three physicians killed when an Afghan security guard opened fire on a group of foreign doctors at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday morning, April 24, 2014.

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago children's doctor killed in Afghanistan often told young medical trainees that the financial sacrifice was worth the privilege of helping the world's neediest patients, colleagues said Friday.

A day after Dr. Jerry Umanos' death, co-workers described him as an early riser who never seemed to tire and became a father figure to young patients on Chicago's west side. When he traveled periodically to Afghanistan as a volunteer, he came back eager to share his experiences.

His love for the Afghan people convinced others at Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago to volunteer their time in the war-torn nation.

"His enthusiasm was very contagious," said Dr. Bruce Rowell of the health center, who followed Umanos' example by joining volunteer trips to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010.

Umanos died Thursday when an Afghan security guard opened fire at Cure International Hospital in Kabul. Cure International spokesman Ben Martin said two other Americans killed were Umanos' guests at the hospital. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the family has requested privacy and their names will not be released.

Dr. Wayne Detmer of Lawndale Christian Health Center, where Umanos worked more than 25 years, said the slain pediatrician recognized similarities between Chicago and Afghanistan in practicing community medicine.

A fatal shooting Thursday in the clinic's Lawndale neighborhood — just hours after Umanos died in Kabul — reminded Detmer once again of the risks that Umanos knew well, along with the rewards of working in the poorest neighborhoods at home and abroad.

"When a person decides to serve in a community like Lawndale, you accept that those are risks, but we also recognize that's why it's sometime challenging to get nurses and physicians to serve in those communities both here and overseas," Detmer said.

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