As part of an ongoing series, today I introduce a fascinating man whom I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting. Yet. We have a lot in common, and our stories are very similar. Dr. Richard Scott says he loved volunteering in Bhutan as a doctor so much that when he returned to the US, he built his house in northern Michigan in the distinct style of Bhutanese architecture.
He writes, “Our neighbors were incensed…indicating only log cabins and traditional designs should be built. A white house with a red roof sure stands out and the prayer flags and prayer wheel all pointed to something bad. Now things have changed. People accept my eccentricity.”
“I attended a seminar years ago for a week on teaching orthopedic residents. It was an intense area of study for those who had been students but not teachers. Near the end of the conference a friend stopped to talk to me and said he thought I might like to participate in a newly opened program through health volunteers overseas (HVO) in Bhutan. He had apparently trekked there and made connections. At that time there were few foreign physicians except for those from WHO and later I met a German surgeon who had settled in a small town.
“I thought it would be a great idea but did not follow up until I was at a national convention of the Academy of Orthopedics where HVO had a booth to sign up. I signed up . — so often decisions are made on a spurred moment, which have been sizzling on a back burner—
“I returned home and informed my wife who said the date was wrong as the kids had too much going on and I needed to change it. She also said we should all go. And we did. My eldest was then a third or fourth year medical student and he came as a rotation that was approved. The others took their books and assignments and some did them. The experience was great for them.
“Bhutan is a long way from Grosse Pointe as it is from LA. My wife went from fear at the driving to Bumthang and the lack of amenities with which we are accustomed, to crying all the way from Thimpu to the airport.
“Two friends went to Bhutan later with Ortho overseas; I had them give a lecture to our group of D.O. orthopedists and their comment is the experience transformed them more than they the health care situation. Some things were not able to be changed.
“One friend, the daughter of our close friends, was in college and came with us. Quiet and observant, she came back and now has gone into a form of divinity school.
“We had the house designed from drawings and a model we brought back once. I found a large coffee table book on the architecture of Bhutan which I gave to our architect. It is solidly made and today a synthetic stucco is used.”
Dr. Scott wrote to me after reading Radio Shangri-La and like many of us, is closely following the unfolding events in the Kingdom he came to love.