Renowned American doctor Tom Catena who has spent years working in conflict-riddled Sudan has been awarded the coveted $1.1-million Aurora Prize for exceptional humanitarianism.
Dr Catena was presented the prize on Sunday in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan for his selfless call to duty.
The prize is granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and as gratitude to their saviours,
He was selected as the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate from more than 550 nominees from 66 countries.
Academy Award-winning (Oscars) actor co-chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee George Clooney heaped praise on the Catena for his exemplary work.
“As violence and war continue to threaten people’s spirits and perseverance, it is important to recognize, empower and celebrate people like Dr Catena who are selflessly helping others to not only survive, but thrive. Dr Catena is a role model to us all, and yet another example of people on the ground truly making a difference,” he said.
Catena will receive a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organisations of his choice.
He will donate the award to three organizations namely, the African Mission Healthcare Foundation (USA) Catholic Medical Mission Board (USA) and Aktion Canchanabury, Germany.
For almost a decade, Catena known by locals as “Dr. Tom” has been on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than 750,000 citizens of Nuba amidst ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement.
Patients have been known to walk for up to seven days to receive treatment for injuries from bombing attacks, and ailments ranging from leprosy and tuberculosis, to bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria.
It is estimated that Dr. Catena treats 500 patients per day and performs more than one thousand operations each year.
“We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future. I draw my inspiration from the Nuba people. And with my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place,” said Catena while receiving the award.
President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative (AHI), Vartan Gregorian said Catena is an inspiration.
“Dr. Catena is an inspiration to anyone who has ever doubted humanity. Despite tremendous injustice and sacrifice, he has dedicated his life to ensuring that the next generation has a brighter future,” said “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 saviours themselves,” he said.
Leading international humanitarian figures and Aurora Prize Selection Committee members, including Shirin Ebadi, Gareth Evans, Leymah Gbowee, Vartan Gregorian, Hina Jilani, and Ernesto Zedillo, were in attendance to celebrate the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate.