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'They Are Us': Synagogue Shooting Leaves UPMC Doctor Dead, Chaplain Injured

By Steven Porter  
   October 29, 2018

President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff thanked the UPMC team for their preparedness, hard work, and sacrifice in the face of a hate-fueled shooting that left 11 dead. 'As an organization, we embrace inclusion and reject that which seeks to divide us,' he wrote.

The aftermath of Saturday's mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, has placed a heavy burden on medical staff at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

In addition to taking the trauma-care lead in response to the attack that left 11 dead and several more injured, the UPMC team lost one of its own members to the violence, and a second remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Jerry Rabinowitz, MD, a family physician who previously served as medical staff president of what is today called UPMC Shadyside hospital, died in the shooting when he ran to help wounded worshipers, as NBC News reported.

"He was beloved and respected by his patients and colleagues," UPMC President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff wrote in a letter released publicly Monday. "We extend our sympathies to his family, friends, patients, and colleagues who loved him."

Among the six survivors injured in the attack was UPMC chaplain Daniel Leger, who remains in critical condition, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Leger, a nurse, has been a major force behind UPMC's "No One Dies Alone" program, Romoff said.

Leger was scheduled to lead a service Saturday morning at Tree of Life, the Post-Gazette reported.

Rabinowitz and Leger weren't the only UPMC community members to witness the aftermath firsthand. University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of emergency medicine Leonard Weiss, MD, who also serves as EMS Medical Director and assistant medical director of STAT MedEvac, resides near the scene of the shooting and arrived within minutes, before the area was secured, as the Pittsburgh Business Times reported.

The city's four Level 1 trauma centers—UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Mercy, Allegheny General Hospital, and UPMC Children's Hospital—received an emergency operations alert to prepare for the mass-casualty incident. The city's coordinated mass-casualty plans worked exactly as designed, UPMC emergency medicine chair Donald M. Yealy, MD, FACEP, told the Pittsburgh Business Times.

"We have one of the most advanced EMS systems in the country ... It's not by luck. It's by design of local government and the local health care facilities," Yealy said.

Explicitly Rejecting Hate

Beyond thanking the UPMC for their preparedness, hard work, and sacrifice, Romoff's letter included a reminder of how embedded UPMC is within the broader community and a specific rebuke of the hatred that appears to have motivated the shooter.

"These are our neighbors and our friends. These are our patients," Romoff said of those affected. "They are us."

"As an organization, we embrace inclusion and reject that which seeks to divide us," Romoff added. "Dignity & Respect guides us all as a core value at UPMC. It governs how we treat our patients, how we treat one another, and how we can ultimately work to overcome hate and bias."

"These are difficult, solemn times," he said. "In these coming days and weeks, let's continue to take great care of our community and of one another."

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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