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Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek on medical award, Dr. Tamara O'Neal
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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For 25 years, renowned physician Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek has been treating patients and teaching medical students and residents the ins and outs of clinical emergency medicine in Chicago.

Vanden Hoek has served as University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ) College of Medicine emergency medicine department head for the past eight years, where he oversees a cadre of doctors who treat over 50,000 patients a year. He was named University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System ( UI Health ) chief medical officer ( CMO ) a year ago. Vanden Hoek is also a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

On Nov. 20, the Chicago Medical Society named him "Physician of the Year " for his work with UI Health's Better Health Through Housing initiative which provides housing and case management for some of the emergency department's chronically-ill homeless patients. The honor also acknowledged Vanden Hoek's work leading a statewide initiative aimed at improving survival from a leading cause of death in Illinois—out-of-hospital cardiac arrest—called Illinois Heart Rescue, as well as research into drugs that may help improve survival for cardiac arrest patients.

"I am extremely grateful to all of my colleagues who have inspired and supported me in focusing on addressing health disparities that are unfortunately all too common in our most vulnerable communities," said Vanden Hoek. "Emergency medicine brings a unique perspective to what and where our biggest challenges and opportunities are as a health system and as a society. UIC will roll out a Social Emergency Medicine fellowship training program that will train future physician leaders in areas of population health, implementation science and design who will be equipped to tackle these biggest challenges."

Not only did Vanden Hoek pursue medicine, but his identical twin brother Todd is also in emergency medicine. They were the first two people in their family to graduate from college.

"Both of us volunteered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at a community phone hotline and in a busy emergency department during college," said Vanden Hoek.

After graduating from Calvin College with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences and chemistry, Vanden Hoek received his MD from the University of Chicago, with honors. He was a resident and later chief resident at the University of Cincinnati. Prior to coming to UIC, Vanden Hoek was a faculty member at the University of Chicago for 15 years.

Vanden Hoek met his now-husband—civil-rights leader and political and non-profit consultant Jim Bennett—at a Broadway United Methodist Church Sunday service 19 years ago. After the service, Vanden Hoek asked Bennett on a date and he said they have been together ever since. They had a holy union service Dec. 8, 2000, at that church and were legally married March 12, 2014, in their home by Judge Patricia Logue, who also opened Chicago's Lambda Legal office.

"At Terry's core, he is a healer," said Bennett. "He is the doctor everyone wants because he is patient and listens who brings people together to find the solution. One of his greatest gifts is being able to apply that same passion to heal and make things better to some of our world's largest problems. He also makes an excellent martini and I could also tell a really sweet story about how he always took my mom's calls and would be on the phone for hours patiently listening to her ailments."

Vanden Hoek has also done philanthropic work throughout his career, most recently with the CHAMPIONS program he helped launch at UIC three years ago. The program teaches high school students about health careers and health advocacy.

"We learned through Illinois Heart Rescue that high school students could become powerful agents of change when they learned CPR and then paid it forward by teaching CPR to their family members and community," said Vanden Hoek. "We extended this concept to other aspects of health advocacy through CHAMPIONS. Volunteer faculty and students from our health sciences schools at UIC participate in an intensive summer program and then after-school program that pays upcoming junior and senior high school students to learn about the health system and how to navigate the health system."

One of the many doctors Vanden Hoek trained was the late Dr. Tamara O'Neal, who was killed Nov. 19 by her ex-fiancée in the Mercy Hospital and Medical Center parking lot before she was set to work that day.

"I loved to work clinical shifts with her in the emergency department," said Vanden Hoek. "She had the most wonderful smile and such a positive attitude about life and her work. Her family was so proud of what she had achieved in training to become an emergency medicine physician. She embodied social emergency medicine through her involvement in community health activities working to help our at-risk patients and communities.

"I always invite students and residents to stop by my office any time if they want to say hi, talk and get advice. Tamara was someone who loved to stop by frequently and made my day. She will be greatly missed. We have started a legacy fund to support students and residents like Tamara."

To donate to The Tamara O'Neal MD Social Emergency Medicine Legacy Fund, visit .

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