Indiana University Medical Center Magazine - Connections


Originally published in Indiana University Medical Center Magazine - Connections section

Richard M. Moss, M.D. Jasper, Indiana

AS YOU STEP INTO THE WAITING ROOM of otolaryngologist Richard M. Moss, M.D., in Jasper, Indiana, you see Far Eastern travel mementos in a glass case, a photo album of adventures in Asia on a coffee table and an Indiana University School of Medicine diploma hanging on a wall. Photographs Dr. Moss took of the Himalayas, the Taj Mahal and Japan grace the walls of this office he opened in 1991.

Raised in a tough neighborhood in Bronx, New York, Dr. Moss was the fourth son of five boys born to Matilda and Harold Moss. "Books were my refuge," the doctor states. Dr. Moss credits his mother for his career in medicine. "She has a great passion for life. Despite everything, she taught me to love reading at an early age - and to value education."

After 14 years of studying, testing, and nights and weekends on call, he toyed with the idea of leaving the country to work in Asia. "To live abroad and see the world, and treat disease at its worst! I saw this as a chance to reinvent myself," he remembers. Still, practice offers enticed him with financial security. On the other hand, the young doctor thought, "Go now. Otherwise, you'll never have the chance!"

THE DECIDING FACTOR was a fortune cookie message he received in New York City's China-town. It read, "Do not forsake your dreams for material security." Dr. Moss laughs, "It's not every-day when one's path in life is decided by a fortune cookie."

He chose to go to Asia in 1987 because there was a great need for help with head and neck cancer patients. Dr. Moss says natives chew the seed of the betel nut plant, which they roll in a leaf with lime and a variety of syrups, flavors and spices. Smoking cigarettes, illiteracy and dependence on the super-natural also contribute to the problem.

He spent three years in Thailand, Nepal, India and Bangladesh, working as a volunteer. Dr. Moss most appreciates the respect that the people in the Far East show one another. "There's nobility in that. We should try to have nobility in our lives - whatever you do, whether you're a dishwasher or a surgeon."

In January 1989, he met his wife, Supit "Ying" Moss, R.N., in Thailand when she offered him a ride on her motor scooter. They ended up working together frequently and married live months later. Dr. Moss says that Ying saved his life in Malaysia, when he was once surrounded by a gang of Nepalese toughs. He says that they would have killed him "if not for her soothing voice and personality," convincing them that her husband was a good person and deserved to live.

"I saw myself returning to my spiritual roots in Asia. I like dealing with people who live the same way they did 500 years ago," he explains.

Three of Dr. Moss' closest friends today date back to his days as a resident in New York City. "Dr. Moss really has a genuine interest in the health care of undeserved peoples all over the world. I consider him to be a true humanitarian," Frank E. Lucente, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at State University of New York, Health Science Center in Brooklyn, says.

Dr. Moss says that he lived in Asia for a year and a half on $2,500 that George J. Braun, M.D., New York City, loaned him. Dr. Braun describes Dr. Moss as "a really great person who also happens to be one of the best physicians. He is a very accomplished, diligent, bright and hard-working physician."

Jeffrey H. Belmont, M.D., New York City, says Dr. Moss is "energetic, inquisitive, intelligent, philosophical and unique. He questions everything around him, not just medicine."

After three years in Asia, Dr. Moss ran out of money; so he returned to the United States and started a practice in Jasper. "I am still hopelessly attached to Asia. Jasper is oddly enough the closest I can get to Asia in the U.S., because the lifestyle here still is very traditional. Family is very important here and the old ways are still revered."


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