Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

It’s a Long Way from Addis Ababa to Dallas but Dr. Rick Hodes Has Made the Trip and is Changing Lives Forever

In addition to being the medical director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Dr. Rick Hodes is the only spine doctor in the entire country of Ethiopia! Since this African country has more than 95 million people, one doctor cannot possibly treat all of the patients for spine injuries and disease. It is for this reason that Dr. Ted Belanger, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute started coming to the country 5 years ago and in the course of these visits became friends with Dr. Hodes.


Dr. Hodes’ organization was responsible for bringing two Ethiopian youngsters, both suffering from spinal deformities to the Dallas area for treatment by Dr. Belanger. Here is an overview of these two patients.

“I’m Always Fund-raising”

Through his organization’s efforts, Dr. Hodes discovers about 1 new spine patient each day resulting in a waiting list for surgery of about 360 patients each year. Some of the patients are sent to Ghana for surgery, some are transported to India for treatment, some are treated in Ethiopia and some, like Samrawit and Haymont come half way around the world to the Medical Center of Plano for their surgeries.

The average cost for these procedures is $20,000 in Africa and Dr. Hodes is responsible for raising this money for every patient. How does he do it?

“I am always fund-raising,” he smiled.

How Did the Paths of Dr. Hodes Cross With Dr. Belanger?

The story of how Dr. Hodes became acquainted with Dr. Belanger, while not complete serendipity – a happy accident – is a case of two men meeting in Ethiopia and working together to give back to people who can afford it least. Click here for the story about how this unique medical partnership began.

Why Bring These Patients to Dallas?

The surgical costs for these two procedures would far exceed $100,000 each, but because of the generosity of Dr. Belanger, Medical Center of Plano and Texas Back Institute, there will be no charge to the patients. Click the screen to hear Dr. Hodes’ reasons for bringing these two youngsters all the way to Dallas for these complicated surgeries.

Dr. Hodes’ adopted children also have a history with the Dallas area.

How to Build a Future Healthcare System in Ethiopia

It is very difficult to contemplate long-term, sustainable medical treatment in a third-world country. There are few hospitals, much less medical schools. Where will the new physicians and surgeons come from?

Dr. Hodes and his organization have a vision of more accessible and sustainable healthcare for Ethiopian citizens.

Update on the Two Patients:

Just before this blog was published, Dr. Belanger was asked for an update on his two patients. He noted the following:

Samrawit is ready to go to rehab. She has also connected with a physical therapist, Robert, and he will not be able to work with her when she goes.  Right now, she is going over to the rehab hospital daily for 1-3 hours of PT, but still staying at Medical Center of Plano.

Haymanot is standing up nice and straight, and he has been very emotional about the transformation.  He cries and hugs a lot.  He was in the ICU as expected, over the weekend, but moved to a floor closer to Samri, yesterday.  He walks with PT, and will be ready for rehab in a few days.


If you would like to contribute to Dr. Belanger’s Ethiopian work please visit http://gfwd.at/1m8X0O3 for more information.

If you would like to contribute to the work being done by Dr. Rick Hodes, visit www.rickhodes.org.

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