Dr. Tom Catena’s Extraordinary Example
By Andrew Quist
“Everybody’s life is valuable, and we can’t lose sight of that or else we lose our humanity.”
–Tom Catena (from The Heart of Nuba documentary)
Tom Catena is the only doctor in the remote Nuba Mountains region in Sudan, where he is responsible for the health of 750,000 people. Choosing to forgo a comfortable life in America, Tom is driven by his faith and altruism to be of service in a war-torn region.
In 2011, the government of Sudan and associated militias began a campaign of genocide against the Nuba people that continues to this day. The Nuba are an ethnic and religious minority. Tom’s hospital has been bombed twice, and like the Nuba people, he jumps into a foxhole when the government’s planes fly overhead. (The only planes in the sky are bombers.)
Because the region is so remote and the government controls the flow of goods, supplies are hard to come by and Tom has had to make do with makeshift treatments. And because he is the only doctor, he has had to learn how to perform complicated procedures using books and YouTube videos. Despite the challenges and the risk to his life, Tom is content in Nuba. He even feels out of place when he visits America.
Tom is a great example of someone who has overcome the psychological bias of pseudoinefficacy—the feeling that there is nothing one can do in the face of a large-scale problem. This feeling of inefficacy is false because helping even one person matters.
Tom recently stated in an interview on The Peter Attia Drive Podcast, “I think people look at Africa and say, ‘What you’re doing is a drop in the ocean.’ . . . When you’re there, you don’t see a drop in the ocean. You see a person. You see a life.”
You can provide financial support to Tom Catena and Gidel Hospital by visiting this webpage sponsored by African Mission Healthcare.
Learn more about Tom Catena by watching this 15 minute cut of the documentary The Heart of Nuba.