Medical Community Mourns Fatal Shooting of Doctor, Pharmacist at Chicago's Mercy Hospital

After a shooting at Chicago's Mercy Hospital left a doctor, a pharmacist and a police officer dead, medical professionals around the country shared emotional messages of grief at the loss of two of their own.

Dr. Tamara O'Neal, a 38-year-old emergency room physician, and Dr. Dayna Less, a 24-year-old pharmacist, were both killed in the shooting that took place in the parking lot and lobby of Mercy Hospital Monday afternoon, authorities said. Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez, 38, was also killed in an exchange of gunfire with the suspected shooter, who police identified as 32-year-old Juan Lopez. Lopez was fatally shot in the incident as well.

O'Neal attended medical school at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the school's emergency medicine residency program shared several photos on Twitter of its alum with her classmates and colleagues, saying those in the program were "beyond devastated."

"I can't believe she is gone," the department's tweet continued.

One of the physicians shown in a photo with O'Neal, Dr. John Purakal, said he trained with her in emergency medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, working with her for three years in various ER and intensive care unit settings beginning in 2014.

He is currently an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Chicago - where O'Neal was brought for treatment after the shooting.

"I knew her, trained with her, saved lives with her and tonight, tried to save her life," Purakal wrote on Twitter early Tuesday.

"Tonight, I broke down in front of my coworkers when we lost her, and tonight I held hands with her mother in prayer," he continued. "Tonight, we lost a beautiful, resilient, passionate doc. Keep singing, TO," Purakal said.

Other medical professionals who knew O'Neal shared their own tributes, with Dr. Andrej Spec writing, "Today, my colleague from my medical school, UIC, was murdered in a hospital I had rotations in. There but for the grace of God go I; and all of us."

"I am too heartbroken to be angry. Twitter, please rage in my name," he said, with another of O'Neal's classmates, Dr. June Chae, adding that she too knew the slain physician, as well as "every single person in this class that puts their life on the line to help others every day."

Calling the program members her family, Chae said "This should not have happened today, or yesterday or any other day."

Less completed her doctorate at Purdue University's College of Pharmacy, the school said Tuesday, calling the shooting "an unimaginable tragedy."

"Today, we’ve remembered Dayna Less as a kind, compassionate, beautiful soul that had dedicated her life to helping others," College of Pharmacy Dean Eric Barker said in a statement.

"It’s so tragic that a young person with her life in front of her has had her life ended in this senseless manner," he continued. "The Purdue Pharmacy family along with the Purdue community grieve together alongside her family and friends in this most difficult time."

A faculty member at the college shared his personal experience with Less as his student, saying she was a "wonderful person" and that he was "heartbroken."

Doctors around the country and even some outside the U.S. joined in honoring O'Neal and Less, and even sharing their own stories.

"Hits too close to home, and also reminds me of all the little girls (and boys) who would have grown up to be healers in their communities like Dr. O’Neal but whose lives were cut short by preventable #gunviolence," said Dr. Michelle Lin. "Tragic loss of a young healer," wrote another physician, while yet another said that while she did not know O'Neal personally, she knew that she was "a true helper" because she chose to work at a "busy urban level 2 trauma center."

"People who choose the tough ER jobs in the big cities are a specific breed. Mission driven. Big hearts. Nights, weekends, holidays, there for it all," Dr. Esther Choo continued, adding that "doctors across the country are grieving."

"We feel the void of all you would have done for your patients, your community, our specialty," she added.

Several shared the hashtag #ThisIsOurLane, which rose to prominence earlier in the month after the National Rifle Association tweeted that "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane."

The organization proceeded to say that "the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves" with regards to their claim that half of the articles in a medical journal pushed for gun control - prompting thousands of doctors to respond with their stories of treating shooting victims, some even sharing graphic photos of their scrubs or operating rooms covered in blood.

The fatal shooting of O'Neal and Less again spurred doctors to use the hashtag as a rallying cry, with one citing their deaths as "another reason why doctors & healthcare professionals need to speak up."

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