The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has announced Tom Catena, a longtime medical volunteer with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), as the 2017 recipient of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.
An internationally recognized humanitarian and Catholic missionary, Catena is the only permanent medical doctor serving 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Hills region of Sudan, where he has worked since 2008. In that capacity, Catena typically treats up to five hundred patients a day and is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, delivering babies, performing surgeries, and treating injuries resulting from bombings. Now in its second year, the Aurora Prize comes with a $100,000 grant and a $1 million cash award that can be shared with an organization or organizations of the recipient's choice. Catena will donate his award to the African Mission Healthcare Foundation (USA); CMMB (USA); and Aktion Canchanabury (Germany).
"We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters," said Catena. "It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future. With my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place."
Born in Amsterdam, New York, "Dr. Tom," as he is known in Sudan, is a 1986 graduate of Brown University, where he played football and was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American and first-team All-Ivy pick at the defensive lineman position. He earned his medical degree in 1993 on a U.S. Navy scholarship from Duke University and began his missionary career during his fourth year at Duke with an extended visit to Kenya. Catena resumed his missionary life after his residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana. He previously was named as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People and was featured in the film The Heart of Nuba, directed by Ken Carlson.
"Dr. Catena is an inspiration to anyone who has ever doubted humanity," said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and an Aurora Prize Selection Committee member. "Despite tremendous injustice and sacrifice, he has dedicated his life to ensuring that the next generation has a brighter future. His service to others is an inspiration, and it is our hope that the individuals he has saved will continue the cycle of gratitude by becoming saviors themselves."