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Chicago doctor Jerry Umanos among those killed in Afghanistan



By CARLA K. JOHNSON and DON BABWIN

CHICAGO (AP) -- An American pediatrician killed when an Afghan security guard opened fire Thursday at a Kabul hospital was dedicated to helping poor children, volunteering in Afghanistan to train young doctors and periodically returning to Chicago to work in a Christian clinic on the city's southwest side.

Dr. Jerry Umanos "was always working to help inner-city kids and trying to help out any needy, poor kids anywhere," said Jeff Schuitema, Umanos' brother-in-law.

The fatal shooting of three Americans on Thursday at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul was the latest in a string of deadly attacks on foreign civilians in the Afghan capital this year. An American nurse also was wounded in the hospital shootings.

"Our families and friends have suffered a great loss, and our hearts are aching," said Jan Schuitema, Umanos' wife, from outside the family home in Chicago on Thursday afternoon. "We don't hold any ill will towards Afghanistan in general or even the gunman who did this. We don't know what his history is."

Angie Schuitema, Umanos' mother-in-law, told The Associated Press on Thursday that she learned of Umanos' death, first from her son and then from her daughter, Umanos' wife, who is a teacher in Chicago. She said her daughter and son-in-law had just taken a two-week vacation in Turkey.

Colleagues in Chicago are heartbroken about the loss of Umanos, 57, who had worked for more than 25 years at Lawndale Christian Health Center in the city, said Dr. Bruce Rowell, medical director of clinical quality at the facility.

"He was ... for many of us on staff, the pediatrician for our very own children," Rowell said at a news conference in Chicago.

"This loss is a great loss for his family, for those of us he worked with as well as for the people of Afghanistan," Rowell said. "He was a loving and caring physician who served all of his patients with the utmost of respect."

Jeff Schuitema said that when Umanos and his wife's children were old enough, the couple quickly moved to Afghanistan.

"Once the kids got to an age where they could leave, they were off," Schuitema said, struggling to compose himself on the phone from his home in suburban Atlanta. "Jerry was trying to get me to come with him for years but I never did."

The Cure International Hospital where the shooting took place is focused on maternity and pediatric care and serves 37,000 patients annually, said Mark Knecht, Cure International's chief financial officer.

Umanos' volunteer work in Kabul involved training residents and medical students interested in international health.

One of those trainees, Johns Hopkins University medical student Evan Russell, met Umanos in Kabul in 2011 while volunteering at the Cure International Hospital and later worked with him on a project called Empowerment Health. Russell said Umanos had been working for years on training programs to teach Afghan women basic health education and skills to provide health services in their communities.

"Just this morning, he expressed how excited he was that, after years of development with our Afghan partners, we were already on to our second day of training," Russell said in an email to the AP. "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."

Umanos was a graduate of Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the Children's Hospital of Michigan, according to the nonprofit Empowerment Health's website.

Officials at the U.S. health care nonprofit Cure International said they are working closely with authorities investigating the shooting Thursday morning at their Kabul hospital.

Knecht told reporters outside the group's headquarters in Lemoyne, Pa., that it "remains committed to serve the people of Afghanistan."

He also is asking for prayers for "the families of the victims and those affected by the shooting, as well as the peace in Afghanistan."

---

Associated Press writers Jason Keyser in Chicago and Peter Jackson in Lemoyne, Pa., contributed to this report.

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loamylam April 24 2014 at 6:04 PM

Of course thoughts of comfort go out to the families of those who lost their loved ones, I do believe we should stay here and take care of our own and these tragedies would not be so rampant. Same with sending our military to other countries. If we used them to protect the home land they would still be living today. There is nothing patriotic about invading other countries and few appreciate any assistance given thru America rather it be health, monetary or rebuilding. We must learn our perimeters and remain within them. More bloodshed is not the answer and all which is left are the families and loved ones to grieve.

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wrench701 April 25 2014 at 10:38 AM

Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished.

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h.scherwenik April 25 2014 at 8:18 AM

Thank - you Dr. Umanos. for all of your for caring for the innocent children of Chicago and sharing your treasured gifts with the country of hate and ill will. The children are innocent there too. You have shown us how go with our hearts of peace for all.

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ajwfromo April 25 2014 at 8:10 AM

RIP my friends

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Chic Broker April 25 2014 at 10:16 AM

Absolutely unbelievable!!! My heartful prayers to the families. Jesus said forgive them father, they know not what they do. This sub-human of a man kne exactly what he was doing. He took the rifel and shot three doctors who only crime was trying to educate those who wanted it and help those who desparately need it. Because it is such a backwards 3rd world country which is driven not by God'a word, but by stupid senseless hideous hate propelled by jealousy.

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stagerb April 25 2014 at 10:26 AM

We remember the time when you killed an Americaan " we'r coming for you "
What ever happened to the Trumans, eisinhourers, Roseivelts. Other Great americans
This country has been sold and Not much left of its Greatness.
This is not the country I was raised in, I feel so sorry for the children

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3 replies
barbara April 25 2014 at 10:49 AM

Enough ! How long will these slaughters continue. Another gifted, fine young man killed trying to help other countries? Yes, it is the American way to care about and help those in need but, in these times, with hatred and disrespect of our country and citizens, we must reconsider the consequences. We are losing our brightest and best, be it doctors, our beloved soldiers, construction workers, all those giving of themselves and for what? It is heart wrenching to be aware of sad circumstances and treatment, or lack of in other societies but we cant fix everything. It is leaving our families devastated and torn apart. We must consider pulling back . We must keep our people safe. God be with those who lost their loved ones.

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LENWELL April 25 2014 at 10:56 AM

Isn't it a shame when the hand that reaches out is chopped off. Islamic extremist are so filled with hate that the goodness of doctor Umanos was discounted and only the presence of a Christian based charity motivated this henious act.

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waxed2002 April 25 2014 at 11:14 AM

The message is clear.

They don't want our help.

Even for their children.

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mbrheljr April 25 2014 at 11:19 AM

RIP, my fellow patriots.

And, as to the murderous, ungrateful swine who did this...

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1 reply
mbrheljr mbrheljr April 25 2014 at 11:26 AM

P.S. And, to finish sentence 2 of my post hereinabove:

...burn in hell, along with the rest of your Christian-hating fellow travelers...

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1 reply
gjohn411 mbrheljr April 25 2014 at 11:59 AM

Read the bible, christians are quite hateful and violent as well, and for that matter, the human race has been killing each other since the dawn of time

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