American Doctor Working in Sudan Wins 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity

Fredrick Ngugi May 31, 2017
Dr. Tom Catena (r) receiving the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. Photo Credit:

An American doctor who is the only medic left to take care of at least 750,000 patients in Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains has won this year’s Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity for his outstanding commitment to serving humanity.

Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from New York, has been working in Sudan for close to 10 years, taking care of thousands of patients, most of whom are victims of the ongoing war between government forces and rebels in the area.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Catena called on the international community to find a lasting solution to the ongoing violence in Sudan, insisting that the conflict has made it extremely difficult for humanitarian organizations to distribute relief supplies in the affected areas, according to the BBC.

“The Sudanese government is embroiled in a disagreement with rebels over who delivers aid. We have to inject a bit of common sense,” said Dr. Catena.

“Opponents believe medicine delivered by the regime will sterilize their women and want goods from foreign donors conveyed from neighboring South Sudan instead.”

Call to Serve

Since 2007, Dr. Catena has been on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital in Nuba Mountains, treating shrapnel wounds, amputating limps and delivering babies.

He is estimated to attend to at least 500 patients per day and perform more than 1000 operations a year as he is the only doctor permanently working in the war-ravaged region.

Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity

Dr. Tom Catena with one of his patients in Nuba Mountains, Sudan. Photo credit: The New York Times

In a video message aired at the award ceremony in Yerevan, Amenia on Sunday, the co-chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, George Clooney, commended Dr. Catena, saying that it is because of him that thousands of Sudanese people are able to survive and thrive in the midst of war.

“Dr. Catena is a role model to us all, and yet another example of people on the ground truly making a difference,” said Clooney.

Dr. Catena received a $100,000 grant and an opportunity to donate the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organizations of his choice.

According to the UK Fundraising, Catena has chosen: African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), and Aktion Canchanabury for the $1 million award.

Dr. Catena finished his speech by asserting that it is possible for a person to make a contribution and realize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future.

“I draw my inspiration from Nuba people. And with my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place,” he concluded.

Other finalists of the award were: Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, the founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia; Ms Jamila Afghani, the Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization in Afghanistan; Mr. Muhammad Darwish, a medical doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital in Syria; and Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon and founder of the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is an annual award given to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: June 19, 2018


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