The Most Important Doctor

Have you heard of Dr. Tom Catena? 

He’s been featured in the NY Times, CNN, ABC, and, in fact, the subject of a full-length 2016 feature film, “The Heart of Nuba.” But don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him. It’s not the attention he’s after. Dr. Catena has been serving at the Mother Mercy Hospital since 2008. He typically treats up to 500 patients in a day. He is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doing everything from delivering babies to performing surgeries and treating injuries resulting from the continued conflict in the region. He does all this off the electrical grid, without running water, a telephone, or so much as an X-ray machine — while under constant threat of bombing…

The NY Times article about him 2015 is entitled “He’s Jesus Christ,” quoting a Muslim paramount chief in the area named Hussein Nalukuri Cuppi. The chief explained that Jesus “healed the sick, made the blind see, and helped the lame walk — and that is what Dr. Tom does every day.”
Despite all of this media coverage, I had just heard of Dr. Tom this week – when Dr. Peter Attia rebroadcast an interview on his podcast that he did with Dr. Tom back in 2009.

It’s a two 1/2-hour interview that flies by and is filled with every emotion you can imagine. It’s powerful stuff from a doctor who has spent the bulk of his professional career as a missionary physician, describing some of his extraordinary work as the only doctor in a remote, war-torn region of Africa.

The entire podcast can be found here, and the complete show notes can be found here.

The most important thing, for me, in the entire episode is about 57 minutes in. Dr. Attia is brutally honest with Dr. Catena. As Peter watches the videos of Tom’s difficult but rewarding, work in Nuba, he says:

“The first thought that comes to my mind is NOT, I wish I were there…I would never want to give up my family, comfort, safety, etc.”

Dr. Catena’s response is absolutely brilliant:

“Everybody is geared a little bit differently, even people in the same family.  My brothers could never be there (either), but I could never do what they are doing…The good thing is that I don’t attach a value to this. Everybody has something to contribute. My thing is being there in the (Nuba) mountains; it’s part of the puzzle…You’re doing a podcast; you’re helping us get the word out. We don’t have this if you’re in Sudan doing the same work I’m doing. Everybody has something to offer. And if we try to get into this thinking, like, gosh, I’m not doing what he’s doing, I should be doing what he’s doing, we miss out on our shared abilities.”

I often see people in their professional lives trying to become someone else. How often I hear people comparing what they do in their personal lives as well.

“Oh, I could never do that.”
“Wow, how does he get that all done?”
“She’s doing so much good work. I’m just not capable like that.”

My friends, no one is you, and that is your superpower. By focusing on your own unique strengths, you can become part of a greater puzzle that has no wrong pieces. This Thanksgiving season, be grateful for your talents, your blessings, your gifts, your abundance … and then figure out a way to go out and share it.

Everybody has something to contribute.
– Dr. Tom Catena

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