‘Lost Boy’ Dr. Jacob Atem joins MedGlobal to further advocacy efforts
Dr. Jacob Atem recently joined MedGlobal’s team as the Advocacy Coordinator, where he will give a voice to the MedGlobal’s mission and carry out advocacy initiatives on MedGlobal’s priority issues.
Dr. Atem received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Pre-Medicine/Biology from Spring Arbor University in 2008 and a Master of Public Health from Michigan State University in 2010. He received his Ph.D. in Environmental and Global Health from the University of Florida in 2017.
After escaping violence and surviving a long and dangerous journey out of South Sudan, Dr. Atem was determined to extend healthcare access to people around the world. He co-founded the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization providing healthcare services and education to the region and is now utilizing his passion and expertise to further MedGlobal’s mission.
Can you tell us about your history and background?
I was born in Maar, South Sudan and at the age of 7, my job was to take my family’s goats and cows to find grass and water near the bank of the Nile River. One morning in 1991, I was caring for the animals when I heard gunfire and screaming. When I ran to see what happened, I saw that my village was on fire. The rebel forces from Northern Sudan had invaded, and at that moment, I knew that my family members had either been killed or taken into slavery.
Along with other young boys whose villages were destroyed, I started walking. As we trekked through the wilderness, we endured malnutrition, dehydration, exhaustion and much worse. One night when I was hiding in a bush, one of the boys yelled “lion!” and I ran into a sharp branch that cut my leg so deep that I could see my bone. There was no way to get medical treatment. Miraculously, it healed with time.
From the estimated 26,000 to 30,000 children, like me, who started the journey from South Sudan, about half died before reaching refugee camps in Kenya. After walking nearly 2,000 miles, I saw many boys die from diseases such as hepatitis B, measles, pertussis and tuberculosis. Like them, I had no vaccinations or opportunities for medical care. The refugee camps, where we ended up, were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of cholera, shigellosis, and other diarrheal diseases – affecting the younger children the most.
How did your experiences as a child bring you to where you are today?
I witness and lived through the public health problems of refugees on my career path in public health – now I want to be part of the solution. I have joined MedGlobal as an Advocacy Coordinator because I believe in MedGlobal’s vision of “a world without healthcare disparity.” I have been helped in so many ways by others. To be able to give back, helping refugees and displaced people around the world is the greatest gift.
Why did you choose to work with MedGlobal?
MedGlobal deploys medical missions to provide lifesaving and life-sustaining emergency medical services to the most vulnerable populations in crisis areas around the globe. Through partnerships with local organizations, volunteers can address the enormous needs of primary and specialty care services. Since its inception, MedGlobal has deployed 132 medical missions in 13 countries around the world. By the end of 2019, MedGlobal aims to deploy a total of 160 medical missions in 17 countries.
Since we began our mission less than 3 years ago, we have conducted 112 surgeries, deployed 411 volunteers to sites around the world who have donated over 25,780 hours of there services. They have seen over 98,292 patients in 13 countries. Our medical volunteers have donated more than $3,221,481 worth of professional medical services and provided dozens of training courses to local healthcare providers.
What do you envision for the organization?
In 3-5 years, I envision MedGlobal impact will double in the continent of Africa. The future operations for MedGlobal will be in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan. In September 2019, the MedGlobal will visit Uganda and conduct a health assessment and meet with local partners that will enable MedGlobal work in Uganda.
In October 2019, MedGlobal will travel to the Republic of South Sudan to meet the Ministry of Health (MOH). l will also visit hospitals in Juba and other states in the country. Based on the success of the visit in September 2019, MedGlobal will prospect for medical missions in early 2020.
Similarly, MedGlobal Organization has a strategic plan to visit Kenya and Uganda given the large influx of South Sudanese refugees into these countries.
How can others stay connected to MedGlobal and contribute to the cause?
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To continue expanding our operations and achieving program goals, we ask for your support. Your donation will also expand the reach of MedGlobal to more refugees, patients, and displaced people worldwide.