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3:23 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Chicago Doctor Among Those Killed In Afghan Hospital Attack

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 6:09 am

Transcript

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In Afghanistan yesterday, a security guard open fire at a hospital. He killed three American doctors including a pediatrician from Chicago. Dr. Jerry Umanos was a religious man who traveled often to Afghanistan to train younger doctors. He wanted to make sure people everywhere had good access to medical care.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: His given name was Edmund Jerome Umanos, but Dr. Umanos went by Jerry. And Dr. Jerry, as he was often called, was just too months shy of his 58th birthday when he was gunned down by a security guard at Cure International Hospital in Kabul. Although Umanos was a pediatrician, his primary role was training doctors and medical students interested in international health.

Standing on the steps of the Chicago home yesterday, his wife of 34 years, Jan Schuitema, spoke to reporters.

JAN SCHUITEMA: I'd like to start by saying our family has suffered a great loss. Our family and friends have suffered a great loss and our hearts are aching.

CORLEY: For the other victims, too, said Schuitema, and for the people of Afghanistan.

The couple, who have three grown children, decided in 2006 to move and work in Afghanistan, Umanos volunteering his time as a physician and his wife as a teacher. The couple returned home but he spent more time overseas.

SCHUITEMA: And I know Jerry would also really like everybody to know about his love for the Afghan people and our love for the Afghan people, and that we don't hold any ill will towards Afghanistan in general, or even the gunmen who did this.

CORLEY: Dr. Umanos went to medical school at Wayne State University. He and his wife met at a church camp in Michigan. And Schuitema says the family practiced a nondenominational faith that sustained them.

SCHUITEMA: He always had a desire to be the hands and feet of Christ.

CORLEY: And she said he always wanted to help an underserved population. Dr. Umanos became the first pediatrician at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in an inner-city neighborhood of Chicago where he worked for many years.

Dr. Bruce Rowell, the chief clinical officer spoke outside the health center.

DR. BRUCE ROWELL: Ending was, as are many of us on staff, the pediatrician for our very own children.

CORLEY: And Dr. Rowell says Dr. Umanos would periodically return from Afghanistan to work at Lawndale.

ROWELL: He was a loving, caring physician who served all of his patients with the utmost of respect.

CORLEY: Caring, kind-hearted, respectful; colleagues often used those words after learning about Umanos's death. One website tribute praises him for his work helping to develop Empowerment Health, an organization that helps local Afghan women with basic health skills. The day he was shot was the second training day for an empowerment program.

Two other Americans also did at the hospital, a father and son who had reportedly come to meet Umanos, and American nurse was wounded.

In a telephone interview with NPR, Jan Schuitema says she and her husband recognized the volatility of the country they had fallen in love with, but...

SCHUITEMA: Neither Jerry nor I really could ever say we were fearful. And I think that's something that's hard to understand. But we often have a common saying over there with a lot of people that when you're living in the hand of God, you don't need to fear - you've got God at your back.

CORLEY: And she says her husband would not want his murder to reflect badly on the people of Afghanistan. She says he loved the war-torn country and its people. And the Afghans Dr. Umanos knew and worked with loved him, as well.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.