Research fund honors doctor’s memory

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Tamara O’Neal

UIC College of Medicine professor Janet Lin remembers her former student and colleague Tamara O’Neal as a passionate and warm-hearted person.

“She always came to work with a smile on her face,” Lin said about O’Neal, a 2014 MD graduate and 2017 emergency medicine resident graduate from the College of Medicine.

After completing the program, she was an emergency room physician at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, where she also volunteered her time to teach clinical residents before she was shot and killed Nov. 19.

“She would want us to carry forward,” Lin said.

Friends and colleagues are honoring O’Neal’s memory by raising money for a research fund in her name. Their goal is to reach $50,000, an amount that will support the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a nonprofit committed to ending gun violence.

Sunil Arora, a UIC emergency medicine faculty member, kicked off the drive for the AFFIRM research fund established in O’Neal’s name. Arora helped raise a total of $24,000 — $11,000 initially and then $13,000 on Giving Tuesday. The Illinois College of Emergency Physicians and the College of Medicine later joined the effort.

“In a little over a week, we have been able to raise more than $36,000, and we are hoping to hit our goal of $50,000 within the next week,” Arora said.

Funds will support research that aims to decrease injuries and deaths caused by firearms and interpersonal violence. Anonymous donors have pledged to match the group’s goal 1-to-1.

“This is something we deal with in the emergency department regularly,” Arora said. “Similar to seat belt laws, speed limits on the highways and other public safety and health initiatives in the past, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and gun violence haven’t received the same level of research money to see how we could make an impact on a preventative basis by decreasing injuries and ultimately deaths.”

The fund will also keep O’Neal’s spirit of doing good alive.

“For us to find a silver lining in horrendous tragic events is something she would want us to do,” Lin said. “To ensure her legacy of what’s good in the world endures. ‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’”

To donate, visit the fundraiser’s official Facebook page or visit the AFFIRM website. Donors should include the words “UIC/ICEP” in the optional note section to be included in the matched funds.