Doctor’s Killing at Bronx Hospital Called a ‘Monumental Loss’
She was not supposed to be working on Friday at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, making afternoon rounds on the 17th floor. Dr. Tracy Sin-Yee Tam usually worked in a ground-level family medicine clinic, where she would treat patients from the hospital’s South Bronx neighborhood.
But those who knew Dr. Tam were not surprised to learn what she was doing inside the hospital when the authorities said a gunman, a disgruntled former doctor there, opened fire, killing Dr. Tam and wounding six others before killing himself.
Another doctor had needed his shift covered. Dr. Tam volunteered.
“She would never say no,” Jude Beckles-Ross, 46, a friend of Dr. Tam’s, said through tears on Sunday outside the doctor’s home in Queens.
She was early in her career, but Dr. Tam, 32, had already established a reputation for being caring and conscientious in a way that those around her found remarkable, even in a field built on caring for others that requires intense commitment.
Dr. Tam, whose father drives a taxi in Queens, had struggled to make it into medical school, but mentors and colleagues said she had plenty of options when she graduated. Again and again, she chose to work in demanding environments in neighborhoods of New York City where people had limited access to medical care, places that few young doctors enthusiastically pursue.
At Bronx-Lebanon, about 70 percent of the patients are on Medicaid, and physicians regularly assume a role that goes beyond physical care, helping patients address family disputes or emotional issues, said Dr. Sridhar Chilimuri, Bronx-Lebanon’s physician in chief. The atmosphere can chip away at a young doctor’s idealism, he said, yet he was impressed by how strongly Dr. Tam, who had been an attending doctor at the hospital for a year, held fast to hers.
“Training young physicians to be doctors is an extraordinarily difficult thing,” Dr. Chilimuri said. “Making them idealistic, and also do exactly what we’re doing, is just impossible.” He added, “To lose somebody like that now is really a monumental loss for us.”
Dr. Tam was in one of the earliest classes to enroll at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a medical school that had its first graduating class in 2011. The school occupies an old department store building in Harlem, across 125th Street from the Apollo Theater. Much of the student body comes from New York City, said Martin Diamond, the college’s founding dean, and its mission is to recruit minorities into medicine and to train and encourage students to work in locations that were historically underserved.
Dr. Tam started at Touro in a master’s degree program, which provided a one-year window to make it into medical school, but required students to maintain a high grade-point average. “This was a good avenue for us,” said Jennifer Dorcé-Medard, a friend who practices family medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “A better chance and a second chance for us to achieve our dreams.”