The Flying Doctors of America help impoverished communities anywhere from Bhutan to Bolivia, with the former the subject of this blog. Bhutan is surrounded by leviathans such as China and India, with Bangladesh and Nepal nearby and due to its relative isolation it can be quite a challenge reaching the State. With a population of 800,000 (greater than only four States in the US!) and only one cardiologist, access to top medical care similar to that provided by Florida cardiologists only arrives with the Flying Doctors.
Bhutan sounds like a fascinating place, with smoking widely prohibited and plastic bags outlawed, rules that were imposed by an environmental and health conscious king. According to John Davis Cantwell, MD, the country first opened to outsiders in 1972 and although it is not much bigger than Switzerland in size, 50% of its population is under 21 years of age. There existed no television until 1999, while no road, school or hospital existed until 1962. It remains a devout Buddhist State with murders unheard of and quality of life measured by Global National Happiness (rather than Global National Product).
The Flying Doctors of America play an important role in assisting the under-funded hospitals and doctors in this small State which is surrounded by giants. Founded in 1990 by Allen Gathercoal, they comprise of a team specialists who include: doctors, dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and pharmacists, who strive to provide care and hope to those who need it most.
The Flying Doctors show selflessness in their mission. Stories exist of people travelling for four days to see an American doctor. It is easy to take things for granted when there exists considerable ease of access to top medical practices such as Florida cardiologist.
A sign entering a town within Bhutan reads: “when the last tree is cut, when the last river is emptied, when the last ﬁsh is caught, only then will man realize that he cannot eat money”, a lack of access to adequate medical assistance does not deter this small and interesting State from maintaining a positive and environmentally conscious outlook.