SOUTH SUDAN: Graduate of Don Bosco School Tonj credits Salesian priest with inspiration for advancing to medical school in South Korea
(MissionNewswire) Dr. Thomas Taban Akot, a graduate of Don Bosco School Tonj in the South Sudan, is an international student at Inje University-Medical College in Busan, South Korea. He recently graduated from the medical college and passed his medical licensing examination. Dr. Akot credits much of his success to meeting the late Father John Lee Tae-Suk, a doctor and a Salesian priest. The priest was a friend and mentor to Dr. Akot early in his life and during his studies.
Dr. Akot grew up in the South Sudan where he faced the challenges of dealing with a long civil war and now continued fighting and devastation within the county. According to the United Nations, neighboring country Uganda is currently hosting 1.3 million refugees, nearly all of them from the South Sudan.
“The civil war continued for decades, and many people lost their homes or became refugees,” says Dr. Akot. “Many also got sick without any possibility of medical treatment. I was asking myself, ‘What can I do for those who suffer so much?’ When I was a student, I was interested in science, but my conclusion was that I become a medical doctor.”
Dr. Akot first met his mentor, Fr. Tae-Suk, when he was just a junior in high school. Fr. Tae-Suk had asked him to join the school band. Dr. Akot learned the flute, guitar and alto saxophone. It was Fr. Tae-Suk who recommended Dr. Akot to the university to study medicine in South Korea. To do so, Dr. Akot had to learn the Korean language.
“I spent about eight years with Fr. John, and it’s difficult to describe his impact on me,” explains Dr. Akot. “Fr. John brought joy to everyone in Tonj. He was talking to all, young and old, without exception. At first it was difficult for me to approach him since he was a priest, but later on I overcame the distance. When I reflect on him as a medical doctor, it’s amazing. To become a medical doctor in Korea means to receive a lot of fame and wealth. Fr. John gave up all of this in order to come to the poor country of Sudan and serve us. It was his life choice and it inspired me.”
Dr. Akot is thankful for the assistance of Fr. Tae-Suk and others who have helped him on his journey, especially in medical school. He become close friends with his roommates and other friends in his classes and study groups. The other students helped him to establish trust with his patients and showed him new ways to do things. Now that Dr. Akot has graduated, he is finishing his medical preparation in South Korea and hopes to one day return to the South Sudan to practice medicine.
“My first goal is to conclude the internship and resident period and to become a surgeon,” adds Dr. Akot. “I would like to become like Fr. John, to serve other people in Tonj. In fact, I dreamed of returning immediately after my graduation, but the academic authorities at Inje University convinced me to finalize the whole medical preparation in Korea, since in South Sudan there are not yet the best conditions to do this.”
Salesian missionaries have been working in Dr. Akot’s hometown of Tonj for several years. Their focus has been on providing education and social development services for poor youth through the operation of primary and secondary schools and youth centers. In addition, the missionaries operate several medical clinics, including a leprosy clinic. In 2015, Salesian missionaries, in collaboration with the Tonj Project Onlus, opened a new hospital with maternity and surgical wards and a residence for medical and administrative staff.
Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.