Former Sudanese “Lost Boy” graduates from Georgia Southern with Doctor of Public Health
Abraham Deng Ater, DrPh, with Gulzar H. Shah, Ph.D., department chair, Health Policy and Community Health in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health.
In 1987, at the age of nine, Georgia Southern graduate Abraham Deng Ater was one of an estimated group of 20,000 South Sudanese boys who trekked more than a thousand miles by foot to Ethiopia and Kenya to escape civil war. During the journey, half of the boys died at the hands of starvation, dehydration or crossfire. Those who survived became known as the “Lost Boys” and lived in mud huts across sprawling refugee camps for upwards of two decades.
Ater was able to relocate to the U.S. in 2001. With him came high hopes of completing his late father’s wish — to earn a good education. Today, he walked across the stage at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro to earn a Doctor of Public Health in Public Health Leadership from the University’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health and honor his father.
“My father sent me away when I was nine years old to search for an education and to bring it home,” said Ater. “The civil war in Sudan took his life. I dedicate it to him.”
An Atlanta-based public health researcher in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Global HIV and Tuberculosis Division, Ater is also co-founder of United Vision for Change, a private foundation dedicated to building schools and health clinics in rural towns of South Sudan.
His long-range plans involve returning to East Africa to work in clinics, organize health workshops and empower local health workers to improve community health. In tribute to those who helped him along his own arduous journey, making a difference in the lives of children and refugee camp dwellers is paramount.
“Georgia Southern gave me this opportunity to succeed,” said Ater. “I plan to improve the health status of those who live in rural areas in East Africa and other parts of the world.”
Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving nearly 26,500 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.