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'Quiet Heroes' Uncovers Lesbian Heroes of the Plague Years

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

The battle one lesbian couple faced against the AIDS Crisis is the subject of a new film. 

Quiet Heroes had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga, and Amanda Stoddard, the documentary tells the story of Dr. Kristen Ries, "a physician who served the denigrated and largely gay male AIDS population in the socially conservative Salt Lake City area," according to a press release. 

Quiet Heroes is the story of Ries's fight to save people, specifically gay men, who everyone else seemed willing to let die.

Ries spent the first half of her life in Pennsylvania, where she attended what is now The College of Medicine of Drexel University in Philadelphia. After spending 12 years  completing medical school with an Internal Medicine residency, Infectious Disease (ID) Fellowship, she spent several years as a junior faculty member.

She then worked for the Indian Health Services in Rosebud, S.D. This training was very valuable when the HIV epidemic ran full swing. It was this experience that confirmed Ries love of caring for the underserved. After helping start a National Health Services Corp site in Vermillion, S.D., Ries was itching to practice her specialty of Infectious Disease.

She found that opportunity in Utah when she relocated to Salt Lake City in 1981. “This was the same year that AIDS was first announced. I saw my first patient with HIV in 1982 and the rest of my career is history," she says.  

Ries was first at FHP hospital, then in private practice and admitted patients to Holy Cross Hospital. Her soon-to-be partner Maggie Snyder joined the practice in 1989 where they practiced and cared for so many remarkable patients.

Ries explains, “We moved the practice to The University of Utah in 1994 where we helped to develop the HIV [and] AIDS program into the program that it is today. I retired in 2011 and keep busy with committees and projects.”

Quiet Heroes is available on streaming networks. Watch the trailer below.

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