Dr. Yohanes Tot,
PhD, MPAS, PA-C
Thank you for participating in South Sudanese human stories. We aim to inspire young people and the wider community about the inspirational leaders in their community. The questions below are tailored to educate and inspire.
Doctorate in Health Care Science/Global Health, Dec, 2018
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Major: Health Care Science and Global Health
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) May, 2013
Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska
Major: Physician Assistant Studies
Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science May, 2008
University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC)
Major: Clinical Laboratory Science (Medical Technologist)
Bachelor of Science May, 2007
University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)
Major: Biotechnology and Chemistry
High School Diploma May, 2003
Benson High School, Omaha, NE
Currently working as an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant at Sidney Regional Medical Center in Sidney, Nebraska.
What is the meaning of your name in your mother tongue?
My name is Yohanes Taydor Tot. Yohanes originated from Ethiopia. It is an Ethiopian name, meaning the Lord is gracious. Taydor is my given name, meaning I was born outside of my home country in the foreign land given I was born in Itang, Ethiopia.
What kind of values were you taught in your upbringing?
Everyone's characters are defined by his/her core personal values and principles, whether these values and beliefs are taught by your parents or learn through the process of life while you are growing up. These core values and principles are the results of one's behavior. Aristotle said it best, "Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way." Values form the foundation of our characters. As someone who was born and spent part of his childhood living in a refugee camp, circumstance and life taught me that being humble, honest, patient, and hardworking will get you where you want to be in life.
Being humble: circumstance taught me that life is not perfect. As I plan and pursue my goals, I know that there are going to be roadblocks that will cause frustrations and setbacks. However, these roadblocks/obstacles do not prevent me from pursuing what I think is right. I understand and know that mistakes and inadequacies are part of life.
Being honest: Honesty is not just about telling the truth to others but being real with yourself. I strive to be honest and ethical in all my pursuits.
Being patient: Many people (not everyone), nowadays, want instant gratification, but better and lasting things do not come instantly. I understand that life is not a marathon, but a step by step process. Not 100%, but it is safe to say that those who take time to plan and set up goals succeed in whatever they want to achieve.
Hard work: It is not to say that working hard alone will get you an achievement you desire, but it is one of the pieces of the collective process. Hard work can help individuals achieve success; it also teaches us discipline, dedication, and determination.
How was your university education? What did you learn the most?
I believe that educations depend on the individual; you can go to IV league schools and still be the same as somebody who went to local state colleges or schools. You can go extra steps to learn the material you are given and better yourself than somebody who attends class without taking anything seriously. I think that I received the best education at all the schools I have attended (UNO, UNMC, Union College, and NSU).
After graduating from Benson High School, I attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and Chemistry. After finishing my bachelor's degree (Biotechnology and Chemistry) at UNO, I went on to complete another bachelor's degree (Clinical Laboratory Science) at UNMC, Master’s, and Doctorate later. While I appreciated the acknowledge I gained from attending these universities, what I appreciated and learned the most is the importance of planning and setting up goals. Setting goals has given me long-term vision and motivation. It focuses my acquisition of knowledge and helps me to organize my time and resources so that I can make the most of my life and pursuits of my career.
Why did you choose to become a Physician Assistant?
When I was in college, my mentor and advisor who I worked for in his labs (microbiology lab), was an advisor to many health professional students, including physician assistant. While I helped him in his labs daily, we talk about the future and what I need to do after undergraduate school. So, we discussed different health professions in which one of them is a physician assistant. At that time, I still want to go to medical school to study medicine. After graduation, I decided to do one more year of schooling at UNMC to get clinical laboratory science because I was not very interested in doing research.
However, after I finished the courses, I was able to get a job at VA Hospital in Omaha, working as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist. At the VA hospital, I was able to interact with some of the physician assistants who work at the VA hospital; From then, I developed an interest and learned more about the physician assistant profession, and decided to go physician assistant school, instead of MD school. Later, I find that the work environment of a physician assistant is more suited to my personality. While I perform many of the same duties as a medical doctor, I find myself more focused on patient care. I don't need to worry about the budget and bureaucracy, so a higher percentage of my time is taken up by the work that drew me to medicine in the first place, taking care of the patients.
Overall, being a physician assistant is not only rewarding both financially and in job satisfaction, but it allows me to focus solely on practicing medicine.
What are the roles of a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant is a licensed medical practitioner that is tasked to diagnose, treat illness and disease, and to prescribe medication for all patients. They work in physician offices, hospitals, and clinics in collaboration with a licensed physician in the U. S.
Young men are often confused about their career paths. What advice do you have for them?
Associate and align yourself with those you have the same interest. It is reasonable to acquire early in your education to learn about different career paths. It is important to get a mentor and advisor; most of the time, confusion happens when you do not have somebody that guides you to make your right or wrong decision. The most important thing I tell people is to find your interest and passion (what do they want in life, what are their passion and interest)? Can they picture themselves doing the same thing in the next the 10 or 20 years without being burned out? A career should not be driven by financial stability or money but interest and passion.
Lastly, to conclude, what interesting fact do you want the public to know about your career?
I can choose to practice in any specialties in medicine. A physician assistant can work in cardiology, internal medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, interventional radiology, oncology/hematology, and Pulmonology without going back to the residency program.
Achai Monychol Bol Bulabek,
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for South Sudanese Human Stories. Your drive for education and family life is amazing. The following questions are tailored to inform the public about your story and your position as a role model in the community. We have a lack of professionals visibly in STEM. I hope this interview inspires young people to become their best selves and chart new career paths.
What is the meaning of your name in your mother tongue?
Honestly, I do not know the meaning of my name (ACHAI) and would love to be enlightened if anyone has any idea of its meaning. Growing up, I was told stories by my father, mother, uncles and aunties about our greatest Achai also known as "Achaiwìir, Achaijòok, amongst many other nicknames" and the significance of the name to Pajòok/Padhìeu subclan who originally hail from ABYEI. The story narrated was that she "ACHAI" made it possible for her people to safely cross over to the other side of the Nile (Just like the story of Moses and the Israelites in the bible). Unfortunately she never made it back safely to her people like Moses did, as she was taken by the gods of the river as a sacrifice and she was an only child. In her honour, a new tradition was adopted whereby every first daughter of Pajòok/Padhìeu was to be named after her.
What kind of childhood did you have?
It was a bitter sweet childhood, I must admit. I wouldn't say I had the best childhood, as many of [South Sudanese] children born and raised during the civil war would concur with me. Being deprived of a peaceful and stable upbringing where all your immediate family and close relatives lived under the same roof is what most if not all of us experienced. "Absent fathers" was typical for most households, as they were preoccupied by the civil war. Getting the necessities of life became burdensome for our mothers who had to bear the burden of both their duties and responsibilities as well as those of our fathers.
Our mothers worked beyond expectations, just to provide for us. I remember times when my siblings and I were sent home due to unpaid school fees. I had to grow-up fast, as my mother decided to teach me (since I was the elder daughter, my siblings second mother) embroidery so that we as a team would make [South Sudanese] traditional bed sheets known as "Malayat" and chair covers or tablecloths "fuoth" (not sure of the spelling). These were popular and would sell quick to those travelling or have resettled overseas. Working alongside my mother taught me a lot about "adult-life" and instilled in me the values and work ethic I have today. I comprehended the importance of hard work, having hope and never giving up in life. I learnt that "hard work always pays ".
What values were you taught?
From the very early years of life, my parents inculcated in me HARD WORK and its importance . My mother taught me to be grateful and to have self-love, be kind, have integrity and courage to always do what I'm required to do. She always reminded me to treat people the way I would want to be treated. My father taught me to forgive others and to not hold grudges. Dad would say that "do not consume your energy and time on things that don't matter to your life, don't allow petty dramas to steal your joy and happiness". He continues to remind me to focus on building myself for my own betterment and to not get distracted by people who have no impact on my life.
Why is education important to you?
Well, education has been very vital in my life as I have seen it transform me completely from inside and outside by changing my mind and personality as well as improving my confidence level. It facilitates quality learning and enables one to explore beyond imagination as far out of this world and beyond the galaxy . Education encompasses social and economical statuses of life which are necessities in our everyday living. See, education instills knowledge, values, skills, beliefs, and moral habits that society can use to tackle and gradually eliminate ignorance as well as discrimination.
Malcolm X eloquently States that “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I do have a belief that education is the ultimate way to get victory over all our personal and social issues.The first thing that strikes me about education is knowledge gained and how it's applied. Education gives us a knowledge of the world around us, however applying it in a way that would enhance and revitalize the already disintegrated relationships among our human race is very crucial.
It develops in us a perspective of looking at life and builds confidence in us, for instance it helps us build opinions and makes us capable of interpreting things, among other things. It is one of the greatest tools in humanity and I wish that getting adequate education would be the birth rights of everyone, be it poor or wealthy, boy or girl........
How was your experience in undergraduate and postgraduate studies?
No one [inclusive of nerds] can ever attest to having had a smooth ride throughout their university studies. Without over-exaggerating, just imagine studying a practically demanding course and being a mother. I must admit that my experiences [undergraduate or postgraduate] were indeed tough and I encountered many hurdles along the way. There were days when my babies were sick, but I still stayed up late to study and complete assignments or prepare for a test/exam. I kept striving as I had instilled in me the eager beaver mode and was not ready to give up!
Women are rarely seen in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Especially as a South Sudanese woman, it must be tough. Why have you chosen to focus on the Geology industry?
Absolutely. Though I've always had passion and humble beginnings in STEM, It was nerve racking to even think , leave alone consider pursuing a career in geoscience as a South Sudanese wife and mother. Years ago, I wouldn't tell you that I wanted to pursue a career in geology though I knew that my love for mama nature [specially for ROCKS] was inconceivable. Like many [South Sudanese] children, my parents wanted me to be a "Doctor, Lawyer or an Engineer". My university journey began in the medical sciences field, but later gravitated towards earth sciences. That's where GEOSCIENCE was spoken into existence. My love for nature and beyond the cosmos became a part of my survival traits. The mining and energy industry has always been male-dominated, but we are changing that narrative and myths.
And why are there few South Sudanese women in the industry?
There are a lot of challenges faced by women working in the mining industry , especially doing FIFO and being a mother! These challenges range from believing it's a male career (only suitable for men) to lacking a support system who would encourage and motivate you to follow your heart, maximize your passions or dreams to your full potential. This career is very demanding not only for women but also for men as it involves getting used to working away from home and adapting to a remote kind of life. To be honest, I wouldn't have done it without my strong support system, and I'm forever grateful for their unwavering support...
Lack of a concrete support system and mentors has deterred most ambitious young women within our SSudanese community (specifically in Australia) from pursuing their dreams or desired careers. The work schedules are pretty much inconceivable for those [specifically mothers] who lack support. They find juggling FIFO with motherhood and finding free time extremely arduous. Furthermore, women may seek out more free time to participate in valuable activities [to boost one's sanity] outside of their career and therefore may choose careers with fewer constraints of them to mitigate the balance between being a mother and working.
Although women have been in this industry since the late 1000s, their contributions are not widely known and hence not acknowledged! Generally, women were denied the right to work in environments solely deemed appropriate for our male counterparts. Today, women may have to work harder to reach for equitable treatment in male-dominated careers and be considered competent among their male counterparts. We are never good enough! So this generally demoralizes women's passion for geoscience and abilities to pursue their career in the mining industry.
How can we encourage young people specifically women to get into STEM?
There’s a myth that if you’re bad at math, you can’t prosper in a STEM field. Having a natural competence in math can be helpful, but skill and intelligence grow with consistent practice, dedication and effort. I would encourage young women to be fearless and confident. Growing up and having to make a decision about what field to pursue can be intimidating, especially with the rigor that comes with STEM fields, but women should look past their fears of entering a male-dominated field with hopes of making their own mark.
The lack of discernible female role models within our community continues to be a major issue. In my opinion though, the real problem is that the women working within STEM are not spoken of or even acknowledged . We need to start the conversation about the significance of STEM to our earthly dwellings and how women have/continue to contribute towards STEM. One way to overcome underrepresentation of women, would be to spotlight examples of actual women succeeding in STEM which could inspire young women by giving them real-world examples to model themselves after. We should collectively shield our girls from the belief or myths that they’re less intellectually capable, hence less suitable for STEM. Let's empower each other instead of bringing each other down merely because of jealousy.
Nyabuoy Gatbel is a South Sudanese Canadian currently living in Calgary, AB. She was born in Ethiopia in 1993 and moved to Canada as a refugee in 2002. She's currently a undergraduate student at the University of Calgary. Besides her studies she's a social entreprenuer focusing on the, ''Paarman Centre project,'' a fashion model, writer and author of the book, ''The Fire Within poetry in Thok Nath and English.''