The educated journey began with a breast cancer diagnosis. Filmmaker, journalist and public health advocate, Perri Peltz directed the gripping documentary An Education of Dee Dee Ricks, a story told by two diverse women and their battle against late stage breast cancer. Peltz’s expertise dealing with issues related to poverty and health in America deemed her the perfect person to assist the documentary’s principal subjects explore their own life threatening illness. The first woman featured in the film is Dee Dee Ricks. She initiated the film partly to document her own cancer journey. It is similar to a personal daily journal on video of what she went through that eventually transformed into a research project comparing the medical assistance available to rich women vs. poor women. The gap is a wide one and the shock to Ms. Ricks propelled her to advocate breast cancer prevention testing for women less fortunate.
Health care is not a medical issue but a moral one according to Ms. Ricks, who asks, “What does it say of us as a society if we let people die because they are poor? My great hope is the film highlights the injustice and inspires people to work for change.”
Dee Dee Ricks has been a successful business woman for many years and her portfolio includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from the University of Florida in 1991, special achievement awards and is Founder of RICKS | Consulting Group, Inc., which serves and advises hedge funds since 1994. Ricks was diagnosed with a late stage breast cancer at age 39 and the weight of the burden affected her personal life as a single mom with two young children. The video journal was made in part because she was unsure if she would survive her cancer and wanted her children to have a detailed account of who she was and her fight to live because of her love for them. Ricks’ journal shares very personal situations that forced her to rethink the reason she embodied an extremely lavish lifestyle. She was no longer in a position to take life for granted and to reconcile with a moral obligation to help others more than herself became her reality.
Ms. Ricks was shocked at the high costs of her medical bills and though she could afford the best care in the world she wondered how women of poverty could afford proper medical attention if they didn’t have insurance. She wondered how many women die from the disease simply due to being diagnosed too late. She began to research the issue and through a variety of connections met Dr. Harold P. Freeman, president of the Ralph Laruen Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem. Ms. Ricks met with Dr. Freeman at the time she was going through her chemotherapy and videotaping her own journey. He introduced her to the process his patients who are less fortunate must abide. Dee Dee recalls, “I went to film an interview with him and two hours later I came out and I had my purpose in life. Everything changed from that point on.” The minute she began to focus on others less fortunate than herself, a whole new world opened up to her that charted her destiny and her impact on so many women in need.
The second woman’s story in the film is Cynthia Dodson, whom Dee Dee Ricks met through Dr. Freeman in his program called The Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute. The two were on similar cancer regiments and became very close friends supporting each day after day. Sadly, Cynthia’s body was not able to conquer the disease, and she passed away two years into their friendship. Cynthia’s absence was devastating to Dee Dee and in Cynthia’s honor she began to collaborate with Dr. Freeman, an activist and philanthropist for the Dr. Freeman’s Patient Navigation program. It is a volunteer buddy system offering assistance to walk along side of women who are uninsured and suffer from breast cancer. Dee Dee knew firsthand the importance of having a buddy to never give up the fight and hang to the focus to live.
I was honored to have been given entrance to the film and discussion group sponsored by the Tribeca Talks Panel and Special Event Series of the festival. Once you view Peltz’s narrative An Education to Dee Dee Ricks you will be inspired to reach out to those less fortunate than yourself not out of a guilty conscience but out of a responsibility to serve somebody in need. An act of service brings joy to the soul and that is irreplaceable. Go to the following websites for further information: http://www.hpfreemanpni.org and www.theeducationofdeedeericks.com.