US & World

Local doctor remembers pediatrician killed in Afghanistan

Kabul continues to sprawl in all directions, and a brown haze often hangs over the dusty city.
Kabul continues to sprawl in all directions, and a brown haze often hangs over the dusty city.
Sean Carberry

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An American pediatrician was one of three people killed Thursday when an Afghan security guard opened fire at a hospital in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Dr. Jerry Umanos was from Chicago and worked at Cure International Hospital in Western Kabul.  He also spent more than 25 years at Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago, where he was praised for his work treating poor children.  

Dr. Chawn Watkins was a good friend of Umanos' and worked with him for seven years at Lawndale. She is now a doctor at Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood and she joins us to talk about her former colleague. 

Nick Roman: What sort of man was Dr. Umanos?

Chawn Watkins: The greatest thing about Jerry is that he cared about everyone. No matter what you looked like, no matter what you were going through that day. No matter what your past was, he cared about every patient and family that walked through that door. 

NR: What's your strongest memory from your time working with him?

CW: How much he cared and how much he poured into all of us as young doctors. He was one of the first pediatricians to work at Lawndale Christian Health Center and when I cam eon board I was fresh out of residency and still learning and he taught me everything that I know about being a great pediatrician. 

NR: Tell me about those lessons that he taught to you. What sticks with you today? 

CW: Listening to the patients — he always taught us to listen to the patients because people always said things between the lines. ... And so not only were they coming with their medical complaint, or concern but he also wanted to get to the heart of the matter. 

NR: Why did he decide to go work in a dangerous place like Afghanistan?

CW: He also worked in the inner city of Chicago on the West and Southsides and I know we've all seen what's going on there right now — but he saw that there was a need for good pediatric care. .... He wanted to not only care to the people of Afghanistan but he also wanted to teach the young doctors there how to provide care in their country. For him, it was always worth it. 

NR: Did he ever talk to you about his work there?

CW: He would always share with us just the amazing stories of how they were able to help a sick child — something that was easy to do here is not always so easy to do there. But just by him being there, he was able to bridge the gap.