A New Jersey doctor --who was a well-known trauma surgeon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- has been killed in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.
In a statement issued Friday night, the DoD said 42-year-old Maj. John P. Pryor. of Moorestown. died Christmas Day when a mortar round hit near his living quarters. He was serving with a forward surgical team with the Army's 1st Medical Detachment, based in Fort Totten, N.Y.
Pryor's colleagues said they were devastated by the loss of the married father of three young children.
"John was a man who truly believed that service to others was his calling," said Dr. C. William Schwab, chief of trauma surgery and critical care at the hospital, which is in Philadelphia. "Whether it was volunteering at Ground Zero on 9/11 or with the Army, or serving the people of the community, that was what he was about."
Schwab said Pryor joined the hospital in 1999 after graduating medical school at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He described Pryor as a "star" who quickly rose through the hospital ranks to become director of its trauma program.
Pryor deployed Dec. 6 for his second tour of duty in Iraq as a combat medic with the Army Reserves, and was due to come home in April, Schwab said. He said Pryor had studied Arabic, knowing he could be dealing with wounded Iraqi civilians -- especially children -- and wanted to make them feel at ease.
Pryor wrote of his experiences as a surgeon confronting violence in Iraq and inner-city Philadelphia in articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post.
"As a trauma surgeon, every death I have is painful; every one takes a little out of me," he wrote in a 2006 article in the Inquirer. "Losing these kids here in Iraq rips a hole through my soul so large that it's hard for me to continue breathing.
"If I could say something to this Marine's parents, it would be this: I am so sorry that you have lost your son. We, more than almost everyone else, know he was a true American hero."
Pryor was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y.