March 15, 2010 – Dr. Rick Hodes has dedicated himself to helping the sick and poor of Ethiopia for most of his adult life. In addition to offering hospital care, he shares his home with more than 20 children, providing them with a loving environment, an education and medical treatment. The documentary MAKING THE CROOKED STRAIGHT tells the story of this man’s work, his unusual family life and the spirituality that has guided him when it debuts WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14 (8:00-8:30 pm ET/PT), exclusively on HBO2.
An observant Jew, Rick Hodes was educated at the University of Rochester Medical School and completed his internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins University. As medical director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and with the support of individuals throughout North America, he has devoted himself to helping those who might otherwise go unnoticed over the past 20 years, guided by his faith and its belief that “He who saves one life, saves an entire world.”
Many of Hodes’ patients are stricken with spine disease (both tuberculosis of the spine and complex scoliosis), which creates massive humps on the back. Eventually sufferers are forced into a permanent forward-bending posture, which in turn prevents the lungs from working properly. Left untreated, it can be fatal.
One young patient, Danny, is an orphaned beggar who pays 20 cents a night to sleep inside a video store, and has never had medical care. Matios, a pre-teen, is afflicted with such severe spinal damage that Hodes must help him walk into the clinic. Aliyeh has a tennis-ball sized tumor on his face. Seeing holiness in the act of healing, Hodes seeks not just to provide medical care, but to keep his patients as positive as possible. He also arranges for complex overseas surgeries, often paying for the international travel out of his own pocket.
Hodes’ home is filled with more than 20 foster children and five adopted children, of both Christian and Muslim faiths. Although they observe Shabbat on Friday nights, the gathering is a time for the children to be together as a family and bridge differences through respect for each other.
Touching on international health issues such as access to affordable generic drugs, medical care and education in the world’s poorest nations, MAKING THE CROOKED STRAIGHT shows how Hodes hopes to leave a mark on medicine by spurring new medical students and doctors to follow his example. Individuals around the world, from everyday people to celebrities, have been inspired to support his work or make new decisions on how they can give back to the world.
Says director Susan Cohn Rockefeller, “During our filming in Addis Ababa, Rick told us about how his work is about ‘saving the lives of people who other people might not care about.’ It is a simple concept, yet it reminds us of how we can do more for people in need.”