FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jan. 28, 2020
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DELAND, Fla. – An American surgeon hailed as “the world’s most important doctor”— to more than a million patients—is being honored with a top international medical award. Today, Florida-based African Mission Healthcare (AMH) announced that Dr. Tom Catena is the recipient of the nonprofit’s 2019 Gerson L’Chaim Prize for “Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service,” sponsored by Jewish philanthropists Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson.
“Perhaps the primary Jewish responsibility is to love the stranger, and to do so meaningfully — in action, where real people materially experience this love,” said Mark Gerson, co-founder of AMH and benefactor of the Gerson L’Chaim Prize. “We are so grateful to Tom for providing us with the opportunity to fulfill this Jewish obligation so effectively.”
Dr. Tom Catena Dr. Tom Catena, a 55-year-old Catholic medical missionary from upstate New York, has served in Africa for 20 years. He is the only surgeon for 1.3 million people in a region nearly twice the size of Massachusetts. As a medical missionary, he put his life on the line living in the middle of the war-torn and besieged Nuba Mountains, a territory fiercely contested by its inhabitants and the former government of Sudan.
In 2011, when the capital started bombing its own people in this southernmost state in Sudan, most expatriate workers fled, but Dr. Catena insisted on staying and 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.”
Since 2008, Catena, a graduate of Duke University Medical School and former U.S. Navy doctor, has been the Medical Director at Gidel Mother of Mercy Hospital. The 435-bed Catholic hospital is the only major medical facility in the Nuba Mountains. Catena is on call 24/7, and sometimes sees as many as 350 or more patients in a single day.
The World’s Most Important Doctor Dr. Peter Attia, host of the popular podcast The Drive, has called Dr. Catena “the world’s most important doctor.” Additionally, Time Magazine named Dr. Catena “One of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World,” and he was the subject of a 2015 Nicholas Kristof New York Times opinion piece titled, “He’s Jesus Christ.”
“Dr. Tom Catena has given up everything that we in the U.S. take for granted in order to bring healthcare to more than a million people who, without him, would otherwise not have access to any medical care,” added Mark Gerson.
AMH Gerson L’Chaim Prize AMH has been supporting mission hospitals in Africa since 2010. It launched the L’Chaim (Hebrew for “to life”) Prize in 2016, which comes with a $500,000 award, the world’s largest annual award of its kind dedicated to direct patient care in Africa. The $500,000 award will go towards the Nuba 2020 campaign to raise $7.5 million to keep the only major hospital in Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains fully operational for the next two decades. Catena is leading the Nuba 2020 campaign.
Mark Gerson commented on Dr. Catena’s endless commitment. “The sheer amount of good he does — as measured in clinic visits, surgeries, deliveries, community clinic patients treated, and children vaccinated — with the amount of resources he has is completely stunning. It is simply incredible to even think about how many lives Tom and the team he has built can save and transform with the money that he is provided.” “The people of the Nuba Mountains are the bravest and most resilient people I know,” said Catena. “I am honored to receive this award that will help enormously with our plans to strengthen and expand the Gidel Mother of Mercy Hospital and our network of clinics in this largely forgotten region of the world.”
“It’s an incredible honor for AMH to recognize Dr. Catena’s unparalleled commitment,” said Rabbi Erica Gerson, an AMH board member and prize co-sponsor, who will present the award with her philanthropist husband Mark Gerson. “For more than a decade, Tom has endured bombings, epidemics, rainy seasons and flooding, loss of power, lack of equipment and staff, and very little connection with the outside world, all because of his dedication to the Nuba people. He exemplifies what it means to ‘walk in all God’s ways and to love Him,’ and we are honored to be his partner in his sacred work.”
The prestigious Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson L’Chaim prize will be presented to Catena April 14 at an awards dinner in New York City.
About African Mission Healthcare African Mission Healthcare (AMH), a Florida-based nonprofit organization, strengthens African mission hospital to aid those in greatest need. AMH strategically partners with mission hospitals to support and advance their commitment to provide compassionate, quality medical care to the forgotten and hurting people of Africa, and to improve the health system in sub-Saharan Africa. AMH was co-founded in 2010 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Gerson and medical missionary Dr. Jon Fielder, who were college roommates.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Dr. Tom Catena, an American surgeon and medical missionary, who has voluntarily stayed in war-torn Nuba Mountains to save thousands of lives in conflict-torn Sudan, has been honored with a top medical missionary award, African Mission Healthcare (AMH) announced today. Catena will be presented with the Gerson L'Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service at an awards ceremony in New York City, April 14.