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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Being Here: Dr. Nick's Prescription for Blues

Dr. Nicholas Riesland's daily reading material can be pretty gruesome. Tossed casually next to his desk at the U.S. Embassy's clinic on a recent weekday, the cover of a medical journal was ablaze with photos of infected warts, disfigured eyelids and red, bumpy stomachs.


"Nice isn't it?" the doctor asked, flipping the magazine over to reveal a soothing yellow Prozac ad on the back page. "That's better," he said. "It raises the level of serotonin in the brain -- makes you feel better. We're thinking of spiking Moscow's water supply with it."


Riesland's life is a little like his reading material. By day he checks swollen lymph nodes and the occasional wart as the doctor for the 1,500 people who use the U.S. Embassy's clinic. By night, he makes people feel better as a Moscow musician, playing guitar and singing in a band that shares his name: Dr. Nick.


The band thing is new. Riesland, 46, learned guitar as a teenager in Palo Alto, California, and then "took a 20-year hiatus."


When he moved to Moscow two years ago with his wife, Joan, who is a nurse at the clinic, and their three children, he met a few musicians. More than a year ago they formed a band. The Russian band members vetoed Riesland's suggestion of "The Dead Shrimp" for the band's name, so "Dr. Nick" was substituted last October and it stuck.


These days the band plays twice a week -- Thursdays at Krizis Zhanra and Sundays at the John Bull Pub. "It's such a break from my job here that it keeps me in balance," he said.


Riesland decided to study medicine halfway through his undergraduate education at Walla Walla College in Washington. After completing medical school and a three-year residency in Florida emergency rooms, he moved to rural Wyoming to become a country doctor.


After four years, he took a job in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi National Guard. "For medical people in the 1980s there were lots of job opportunities in Saudi. They were building up their infrastructure," Riesland said.


When he leaves Moscow in June for a post at the U.S. Embassy clinic in Thailand, he will take more than two years worth of memories along, Riesland said.


Back in 1990, Reisland came to the Russian capital to investigate the expatriate community's medical needs for the Hospital Corporation International -- the organization that would eventually become the American Medical Center.


"I was fascinated with the city. Growing up, we had all these images of the place," he said. "There was more hardship than I expected. But it was an exciting time. The expat community was very small and there was a real sense of adventure. I'm glad I was here then."