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  • Author icon JDC at
  • Author icon November 18, 2022

Dr. Hodes is an American doctor from Long Island, New York. He is the medical director of JDC’s Ethiopia Spine and Heart project.

Dr. Hodes completed his undergraduate degree at Middlebury College in 1975, completed his medical degree at University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1982, and then completed an internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins University in 1985.

He explained “I wanted to be an internist. I like to think. And I love long-term relationships with patients. It never occurred to me to become a spine specialist while I was in medical school in Rochester, NY. I always saw myself working overseas. After internal medicine training in the Johns Hopkins system, I got a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at Addis Ababa University. I did that for over 2 years.

Later, I was hired by the JDC to medically assist the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. I participated in Operation Solomon, which airlifted 14,400 immigrants to Israel in 24 hours in 1990. We noted a significant problem of tuberculosis in that group, and started hundreds on modern, short-course supervised therapy.

It saved a lot of lives.

Before completing his residency, Dr. Hodes made his first trip to Ethiopia as a relief worker during the 1984 famine. He then won a Fulbright Fellowship after residency to teach at Addis Ababa University School of Medicine from 1985-1988.

In 1990, he joined the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to help care for the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, work that eventually led him to become senior consultant at Mother Teresa’s Mission, caring for sick and destitute patients.

In addition to his work in Ethiopia, he has worked with refugees in Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania, and Albania, in one instance being charged with the health of some 50,000 refugees in the Kibumba camp in Zaire.

In 1999, Dr. Hodes met two abandoned orphans with Pott’s Disease (or, tuberculosis of the spine) and adopted them so that he could put them on his insurance so he could bring them to the United States for surgery. This set in motion events that would see Dr. Hodes officially launch the Ethiopian spine program in 2006. During that first year, he got 20 new patients with spinal deformities.

In 2005, Rick Hodes met Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, a Ghanian-American spine surgeon in New York. He had founded FOCOS (Foundation for Orthopedics and Complex Spines) to help Africans with spinal deformities. After a day together, they felt that they could work together successfully.

The collaboration between the two is now approaching 1000 Ethiopian patients sent to Ghana over the past 13 years.

The clinic now averages over 1 new patient a day. Today, following nearly 3000 spine patients, Dr. Hodes partners with world-renowned, Ghanaian spine surgeon Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, with whom he has arranged over 600 surgeries. Observing this, noted Indian spine surgeon Dr. S. Rajasekaran commented “Rick has the largest collection of the worst spines in the world.”

Dr. Hodes has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles in medical literature; has been awarded 5 honorary doctorates; and is a commencement speaker at multiple schools, including the University of Rochester, UC Davis, and Brandeis.

The American College of Physicians has awarded him “Mastership” (the level of membership above fellow), as well as the Rosenthal Award for creative practice of medicine. He was recognized as a CNN Hero in the category “Champion of Children.” He is the subject of 4 documentary films, including “Making the Crooked Straight” and “Zemene,” as well as a book, “This is a Soul: the Mission of Rick Hodes” by Marilyn Berger.

Dr. Hodes lives in Ethiopia today with his family and manages two clinics in Addis Ababa.

To find out more about where Dr Rick will be appearing on his Australian visit please CLICK HERE.