Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Medical community grieves for student

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— The Yale medical community came together Monday to grieve for one of its own after a graduating student died following an accident near Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Mila Rainof, 27, died less than 24 hours after she was hit by a car while trying to cross South Frontage Road near York Street at about 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We are really, really suffering. The faculty who mentored her are torn apart,” said Nancy Argoff, assistant dean for student affairs at the Yale Medical School.
Argoff said it appears Rainof’s view of the street was obstructed by a truck leaving a hospital loading dock at the intersection.
The assistant dean said after the light turned green, Rainof ran across the street and while two sport utility vehicles were able to avoid her, the driver of a third car accelerating to get into the left lane and onto the highway hit the student.
Argoff said reports she received came from hospital emergency personnel who had talked to police investigating the accident. Rainof suffered severe head injuries, Argoff said.
Police spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said they would have no comment until the accident reconstruction team has a more definitive picture of what occurred, which could take weeks.
“I think the take-home message is that this is a tragic accident. The person who hit her must feel horrible,” Argoff said.
The loading dock at York Street and South Frontage Road has been a problem for some time, as trucks making deliveries to the hospital have to back up across South Frontage, blocking and slowing traffic, while vehicles jockey to funnel onto Interstate 95. Construction of the hospital’s cancer center one block away has added to the congestion.
Part of the cancer hospital project however, is a new arrangement in which trucks will be able to drive directly to new loading docks under the Air Rights Garage.
Rainof, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., was scheduled to begin her residency in the fall at Alameda County Medical Center’s Highland General Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine in California.
Argoff said several of Rainof’s friends, including a roommate who was in Australia and another friend in Chile, were returning to New Haven after hearing of the accident. The young woman’s boyfriend is also graduating from the medical school.
The faculty and students got together Monday afternoon at the school to support each other and to be informed of counseling services available at Yale.
“It’s not what any of us are used to,” Argoff said of the death of someone at the beginning of her medical career.
Alexander Park, a third-year medical student at Yale, had this to say about his friend in a posting on Facebook: “Shed not for her the bitter tear, nor give your heart to vain regret, tis but a coffin that lies here, the gem that filled it sparkles yet.”
Rainof’s parents donated her organs as a way to recognize their daughter’s dedication to service and helping others, the dean said.
As part of a requirement for all medical students, Rainof wrote an observation about the cadaver she worked on in her training at the university.
“As I slide the scalpel along her palm, I cannot help but think about how I cannot comfort her, cannot save her, much in the same way that some doctor in some hospital failed to save her before. And in the back of my mind, the place where I shelve all quiet failures, I hope more than anything that someone loved her enough to make up for what I have done,” Rainof wrote.
Elizabeth Benton contributed to this report.

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