web analytics
May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


One Life At A Time: Dr. Rick Hodes Is Changing Lives

Lewis-101813-Baby

Introduction

As the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) medical director in Ethiopia, Dr. Rick Hodes has been responsible for the medical care of tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews for almost twenty-three years. Today, although his priority is caring for the dwindling number of immigrants to Israel, Hodes works with mostly children from all populations suffering from malaria, tuberculosis, heart disease, diseases of the spine, cancer and major deformities that defy the imagination.

Befekadu and I in the airport in Rome

Befekadu and I in the airport in Rome

“Right now, I have an eighteen-year old kid with a huge facial deformity recovering from 24-hour surgery in Munich. Another eight-year-old Moslem boy is in Nahariya undergoing reconstructive surgery after having much of his face torn apart by a hyena. A second kid, who was also attacked by a hyena, is recovering from five hours of skin grafting in Addis Ababa. Two days ago, 11 kids returned from Ghana where they underwent spinal surgery. Nine of them were in traction for months. Ten kids are still in Ghana and 16 are about to leave for Ghana for spinal surgery. I’m following nearly 1,200 spine patients, having gotten over 200 new ones this year,” says Dr. Hodes. At the end of the summary of his coming day’s work, he mentions the few thousand people that he is also caring for. And yet, when I set up a time to speak to him, he assures me that he doesn’t have anything on for the day!

 

Doctor to Thousands

In 1989, when Ethiopia and Israel agreed to restore the diplomatic relations that had been broken off by Ethiopia in 1973, thousands of Ethiopian Jews (aka Beta Israel) flooded to Addis Ababa. A year later, Dr. Hodes, an observant Jew from Long Island, N.Y., was hired by the JDC to be the medical director in Ethiopia and oversee their care. The original six-week contract was to morph into nearly twenty-three years…and Hodes is still counting. “Addis is a long way from Long Island, but I always saw myself as being someone who does things on the fringes,” he says.

Hodes, who holds a degree from the University of Rochester Medical School and trained in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins, has spent time working in Alaska, Albania, Bangladesh, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zaire. In 1985, he went to Ethiopia where he taught for two and a half years at the Addis Ababa University Faculty of Medicine on a Fulbright professorship. In his new position with the JDC, he became responsible for the health of 20,000 Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. “I’ve been the doctor for one percent of Israel before they became Israeli,” he says. But Hodes is no stranger to large numbers. “In Goma, Zaire, I was directing healthcare for 25 percent of the Kibumba refugee camp – that’s 50,000 people,” he says.Lewis-101813-Girl

During the initial stages of his work in Addis Ababa, Hodes quickly discovered an underlying problem. “When I sat with my patients checking that they were getting the correct medical care and discussing symptoms and illness, I realized that there were a great many more tuberculosis cases than we were addressing,” says Hodes. To treat the hundreds of cases efficiently, Dr. Jack Adler, then medical director of the Bureau of Tuberculosis at the New York City Department of Health, was flown in.

 

A Full Jewish Heart

Free time is something that Hodes doesn’t have: he uses it to treat patients pro bono. One day at the Black Lion Hospital, Hodes met Bewoket, a twelve-year-old boy weighing 24 kilos with rheumatic heart disease who had traveled alone 300 kms from Gojjam to Addis when his family decided, after several hospitalizations, that the time had come to leave him to die. Hodes changed Bewoket’s medications, followed up on a major medical error and tracked his progress when he was discharged to Mother Teresa’s Mission, a Catholic palliative-care clinic. When Bewoket fell into a depression, Hodes moved him into his home. Then he sent him to America for heart surgery. “Bewoket is now in nursing school and I’m helping a lot of his family as well,” says Hodes.

What started out as Hodes’ personal volunteer mission developed into a JDC non-sectarian program for which Hodes is constantly raising funds. And he continues to treat mission patients weekly; often without X-rays, lab tests or MRIs, Hodes makes diagnoses and provides as much treatment as possible to these severely ill patients. Where hope still flickers, he will arrange testing and treatment at private hospitals. And often he’ll personally pay for the patients’ food and transportation. Hodes’ patients are a worthwhile investment: on a recent trip to Atlanta, he was reunited with a former patient, Mesfin, who now works as a respiratory therapist.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “One Life At A Time: Dr. Rick Hodes Is Changing Lives”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Chabad of Kathmandu served some 2,000 meals a day to displaced and homeless Nepalese following the earthquake, with help from local and Israeli volunteers led by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz and his wife Chani.
Israel Issues Travel Warning for Nepal
Latest Indepth Stories

I decided to really understand what Jewish people go through by becoming a Jew.

March for Armenian Genocide

Why does Obama and other democratic world leaders resist branding the Armenian killings as genocide?

Rioters smash window of police car in Baltimore.

I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”

Nathan Lewin

FBI’s undercover agents contacted ORA (Org. for the Resolution of Agunot) pretending to be an agunah

Israel promotes coexistence and peace, providing freedom for all religions on the Temple Mount.

The Jewish vote won’t impact polls as much as it will the coffers of candidates and their Super PACs

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

If some Israeli cops got a Jewish education & learned to love Jews, Israel would be a better place

No where in the world is there the level of intervention by foreign countries as exists in Israel.

The Ravens’ Ray Lewis screamed that violence is never the answer.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Obama is the latest incarnation of our ancient enemies who arise every generation with a new face

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

More Articles from Rhona Lewis
Lewis-041715-Jewish-Soldiers

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

Lewis-020615-Kenya

Jews integrated into life in Kenya to such an extent that in 1955, Israel Somen, who had worked extensively on the Lunatic Line (the colloquial name for the railway that was forged madly through forests and ravines, troops of tribesmen and lions) was elected the mayor of Nairobi.

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

“I aim for the heart,” says Dvorah, “and I start with feelings, because feelings are universal.”

The gaping hole torn in my heart by my son’s death was too raw to find solace in any of the memorial events planned by others.

“Addiction can be managed, but it isn’t something that can be cured.”

“My husband, the visionary, wanted to target people who had never kept Shabbos; I, the realist, asked how they would do it.”

Keeping my hands on my head, I looked up to see four or five balls of fire exploding in the sky.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/one-life-at-a-time-dr-rick-hodes-is-changing-lives/2013/10/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: