The Education of Dee Dee Ricks

by Dana Demas

Tonight, a powerful documentary about breast cancer premieres on HBO. "The Education of Dee Dee Ricks" follows the journeys of two very different women who share a similar diagnosis.

One woman, Dee Dee Ricks, is a wealthy business owner living in Manhattan, with access to the best healthcare and the means to pay $26,000 in charges when her insurance company won't cover the full cost of her double mastectomy. The other woman, Cynthia Dodson, is an office temp worker with no benefits, who is diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer after years of inadequate healthcare.

Dee Dee and Cynthia form a close friendship, and the film chronicles Dee Dee's fight to raise awareness and money for women like Cynthia, who lack the resources to fight cancer the way she did.

Dee Dee began filming as a gift to her sons, in case she lost her battle to cancer. However, her journey soon led her to Dr. Harold Freeman, who runs the Patient Navigation Institute in Harlem, which guides uninsured women through screening and treatment. Through this institute, Dee Dee met Cynthia, and her life was forever changed by Cynthia's struggles to treat her breast cancer.

The moving documentary provides a powerful solution for helping people who don't have access to healthcare: patient navigators. Patient navigators are trained to save lives from cancer and chronic diseases, by providing services to poor and uninsured men and women, including:

  • Informing people about the need for certain recommended examinations and providing timely access to such examinations
  • Eliminating any barriers to timely care across the entire health care continuum
  • A critical function of navigation is to eliminate any and all barriers to timely diagnoses and treatment in patients who have abnormal or suspicious findings

Tune in to HBO tonight at 8:30pm or learn more about patient navigation and how you can get involved.