Newswise — CHICAGO, IL – As a doctor who often treated shooting victims, Mercy Hospital emergency department physician Tamara O'Neal, MD, was greatly concerned about the toll of gun violence.

"She talked about it a lot, and about the incessant national tragedy that all these people are dying needlessly," said Patrick Connor, MD, Mercy Hospital's emergency department director.

Dr. O'Neal herself became a victim of gun violence on November 19 when she and two others were killed by a gunman at Mercy Hospital. The other two victims are Dayna Less, PharmD, a first-year pharmacy resident-in-training, and Samuel Jimenez, a brave Chicago police officer who tried to protect hospital employees and patients from the shooter. The shooter also died.

The Chicago Police Department secured the hospital within an hour and no additional staff or patients were harmed. The emergency department reopened Tuesday afternoon, November 20 with normal operations. Mercy’s other operations will be operational on Wednesday, November 21.

 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson visited Mercy Hospital’s emergency department to share their condolences with staff.

Dr. O'Neal "was simply the best," Dr. Connor said. "She excelled in touching every patient in a meaningful way. It was a sight to behold."

Dr. O'Neal was deeply involved in her community and her church. "She had one request when I became director of the emergency department," Dr. Connor recalled. "We struck a bargain that she would not have to work on Sundays because she was such a big part of her church, where she was in charge of the choir."

Dr. O'Neal also performed free sports physicals and did fundraising to buy school supplies for underprivileged children, Dr. Connor said.

Dr. O'Neal earned her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed a residency in emergency medicine at University of Chicago Medicine. She joined Mercy Hospital in 2016.

Ms. Less joined Mercy Hospital in July, 2018 after earning a pharmacy degree from Purdue University. She was in her first year as a resident-in-training, working in multiple areas of the hospital. She was planning to do a second year residency working in ambulatory care.

Pharmacy residencies are extremely competitive. Ms. Less was one of two pharmacy residents at Mercy, out of about 40 pharmacists who applied. Her career plan was to work in an outpatient clinic.

"She was very sharp and motivated, and kept everyone on their toes," said Steven Silverstein, PharmD, health system director of pharmacy. "She was working very hard on improving and increasing her knowledge base."

Dr. Connor said unfettered access to weapons is causing ceaseless tragedies. "What we need is meaningful gun control," he said.

Mercy Hospital is a member of Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation.

Trinity Health colleagues, nurses, physicians and clinicians are committed to combatting violence – in all of its forms – everywhere. Violence in all of its forms is a serious public health issue. By standing up against all violence, including workplace violence, domestic violence, gun, street and gang violence, we can be agents of changes that make our communities healthier. 

To make a donation to benefit the families of Tamara O'Neal and Dayna Less, please visit