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 important 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."
Susan Cohn Rockefeller is a documentary filmmaker whose projects have won top awards at many film festivals across the United States and around the world. Her recent efforts include producing and directing HBO documentary, " Making the Crooked Straight " (www.makingthecrookedstraight.org) which is receiving a "Christopher Award" in May, 2011. Susan also co-produced the internationally- acclaimed, "A Sea Change" (www.aseachange.net). She is currently on the festival circuit for " Striking a Chord " (strikingachordthemovie.com), and in production on a film on mermaids. Susan has written several career-oriented books, including the ground-breaking Green At Work that helped usher environmentally-friendly jobs into nontraditional arenas such as art, architecture, marketing, finance and more. When she's not busy designing jewelry, Susan sits on the board of Oceana (www.oceana.org) as well as the Global Leadership Council for NRDC. She is also a member of the program committee for The Stone Barns for Sustainable Agriculture. Susan is married and lives with her husband and their four children in New York City. Rockefeller holds a BA from Hampshire College and a MA in education from NYU. The HBO debut of 'Making the Crooked Straight' coincides with the publication of the HarperCollins book "This Is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes," by Marilyn Berger.
'Making the Crooked Straight' is produced and directed by Susan Cohn Rockefeller; produced in association with Chicken and Egg Pictures, Julia Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger and Judith Helfand; editor/co-producer, Gavin Coleman; associate producer, David Rockefeller, Jr.; music supervisor, Guy Licata. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.