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As a scientist, he studied trauma victims. Then he became one

Dennis Charney, a medical school dean, knew more than most about resilience. But, after a horrifying shooting, he didn't know whether it would be enough.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Dr. Dennis Charney stepped forward to address the court here, the man who tried to kill him standing no more than 20 feet away.

He stated his full name for the record and then began detailing what happened. How one morning as he picked up his iced coffee and lightly buttered bagel, he heard a shotgun boom and saw blood pouring from his shoulder and chest. How he spent five days in the intensive care unit and then was scared to sleep with the lights off. How even now, a year later, he carried buckshot in his body.

He also explained how, before all that, he had studied trauma victims and their recoveries.

Charney, a bearded, barrel-chested psychiatrist, made clear that he accepted that, with the pull of a trigger, he had joined their ranks. He identified himself as a trauma victim, just as he did a family man, a scientist, and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

To the man who fired the gun, Charney would later recall, he wanted to convey a level of respect. It would show, he felt, that he was not devoting his energy to hatred. So he would refer to the shooter by his title: doctor. Because before the years of misconduct investigations, the firing, the lawsuit, and now the shooting, the man had done the work to become one.

That small sign of respect was different from forgiveness, though. And it was different from wanting Dr. Hengjun Chao, 50, to be sent to prison for a very long time.

“Your honor, I’m here today to ask that you sentence Dr. Hengjun Chao to the maximum sentence available under the law,” Charney said to the judge, as Chao stood unmoving, his bespectacled eyes cast downward, his hands cuffed behind his back.

“Dr. Chao’s attempt to murder me not only caused me to suffer grave physical injury,” Charney continued, “but it’s changed my life and the life of my family forever.”

Charney, 66, built his career studying the biology of depression and anxiety, making about ketamine’s potential as a treatment. When he started working at a VA hospital, he also grew intrigued by post-traumatic stress disorder. Why, he wondered, did some people who endured horrible

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