Fact Sheet: The Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service 


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gregg Wooding 972.567.7660 gwooding@inchristcommunications.com 

The AMH Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service

  • Dr. Tom Catena, medical director of Gidel Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, is the 2019 recipient of the AMH Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service.
  • L’Chaim means “To Life” in Hebrew.
  • The annual AMH Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson L'Chaim Prize was established in 2016 by New York Jewish philanthropists Mark Gerson, and his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson, benefactors of the award. 
  • The Prize is awarded by African Mission Healthcare (AMH), a Florida-based nonprofit organization which strengthens African mission hospitals to aid those in greatest need.
  • This is the largest annual award ($500,000) of its kind, dedicated to direct patient care.  

African Mission Healthcare (AMH)

  • AMH was co-founded in 2010 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Gerson and medical missionary Dr. Jon Fielder; the two became friends in college.  

Dr. Tom Catena 

  • Dr. Catena, a 55-year-old Catholic medical missionary from upstate New York, has served in Africa for 20 years.
  • Since 2008, Catena risked his life serving the people living in the Nuba Mountains, in a brutal war zone in the Nuba Mountains, a region nearly twice the size of Massachusetts. 
  • Catena, the only surgeon for 1.3 million people, is on call 24/7. Sometimes he sees as many as 350 or more patients a day.
  • Catena is currently chairing African Mission Healthcare’s Nuba 2020 campaign to raise $7.5 million to ensure the only major hospital in Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains continues to treat and save thousands of and adults threatened by conflict, disease, and medical emergencies. 
  • When fighting started in 2011, most expatriate workers fled. Dr. Catena insisted on staying and children said, “The source of most of our conflicts is the idea that one person’s life is more valuable than someone else’s. We have forgotten that we are all children of God and therefore somewhat related.”
  • In 2014, the hospital was targeted. Bombs fell right next to Dr. Catena’s home, but instead of leaving, they dug foxholes and prepared for the next bombing. 
  • Dr. Catena serves with his wife, Nasima, a native of the Nuba Mountains and a nurse at Mother of Mercy Hospital. 
  • Dr. Peter Attia, host of popular podcast The Drive, called Dr. Catena “the world’s most important doctor—to nearly a million patients—saving countless lives in the war-torn and remote villages of Sudan.” The $500,000 L’Chaim Prize will go towards the Nuba 2020 campaign.  

Dr. Catena has received several other awards and forms of recognition, including: 

  • 2019 – Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Documentary Film (For The Heart of Nuba, with Kenneth Carlson). 
  • 2018 – Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) Social Justice Award. 
  • 2018 – Named the 2018 “Catholic Doctor of the Year,” awarded by the Mission Doctors Association. 
  • 2017 – Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity—one of the world’s most prestigious humanitarian awards. 
  • 2017 – Honorary doctorate, Yerevan State Medical University, the leading university in Armenia. 
  • 2016 – Honorary doctorate, Brown University. 
  • 2015 – Time 100—Named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time Magazine. 

Previous L’Chaim Prize Recipients:  

2018 Recipient – Dr. Rick Sacra:  

  • Dr. Rick Sacra serving as a missionary at ELWA hospital in Liberia. 
  • Despite contracting the disease while treating patients during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Dr. Sacra returned immediately after recovery to continue to pursue his calling, commenting that a time of epidemic outbreak is when he was needed most.  

2017 Recipient – Dr. Russ White:

  • Dr. Russ White serving as a missionary at Tenwek Hospital in Western Kenya. 
  • Dr. White is a cardiothoracic surgeon passionate about training and mentorship and is catalyzing the building a state-of-the-art Cardiothoracic Institute at Tenwek Hospital.  

2016 (1st recipient) – Dr. Jason Fader:

  • Dr. Jason Fader serving as a missionary at Kibuye Hope Hospital in Burundi. 
  • When he received the award in 2016, Burundi was the poorest country in the world and he was 1 of 14 surgeons for 10 million people, and the only surgeon based outside the capital, Bujumbura.