Good Sport

Good Sport

94-year-old medical alumnus has traveled the world as a physician and table tennis champion

By Cindy Murphy McMahon, BA’74

Each morning Michael Scott Jr., MD’46, reports for work at his dermatology office in Seattle, even though this year he will turn 95 years old.

“If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not work,” Scott said.

And why shouldn’t he enjoy what he’s doing? He operates a medical practice with his son, Michael Scott III, M.D.; his profession and his avocation, table tennis, have taken him around the world; and he has been a part of revolutionary changes in the field of dermatology.

Scott was the second generation of his family to go to Creighton for medical school. His father, Michael Scott Sr., MD’1903, was a surgeon and the founding benefactor of Creighton’s medical library, which was named the Dr. M.J. Scott Medical Library in his honor. Scott Sr., who died in 1985, is also credited by historians as the person who called for “the creation of an all-University alumni association” in 1913, and he became an officer in Creighton’s inaugural alumni association later that year. Scott Sr.’s family was from Carroll, Iowa, and several other members of the extended family had gone to Creighton in the early days of the 20th century as well.

Scott Jr. chose dermatology as his specialty because of the influence of faculty member John Borghoff, M.D., a dermatologist. He said Borghoff told him he was the first student to be interested in dermatology: “Everyone thought everything was contagious and didn’t want to go into it.”

At that time, the field was called dermatology and syphilology, Scott said, and a significant part of the profession was treating venereal diseases.

During his residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he was involved with groundbreaking research on the treatment of syphilis. What had previously been a year-and-a-half protocol was brought down to 10 days with penicillin, revolutionizing the treatment of syphilis.

Scott had been in an accelerated program at the School of Medicine as a member of the U.S. Army. After the residency at Bellevue, he served in the military for five years, which included being the only dermatologist in Europe at the Army Hospital in Munich, where he was the chief of staff. He then attended Cornell for two more years of training for a super residency in dermatology.

Although he had offers in New York, he settled in Seattle to practice because he liked that part of the country. Life is good in Seattle. He and his wife raised four children, all of whom are professionals — two attorneys, one R.N. and one physician.

In 1971, his life began to take another interesting twist. A recreational table tennis (also known by the trademarked name Ping-Pong in some parts of the world) player, Scott that year entered and won the 50-years-and-older competition in his home state of Washington.

His table tennis playing had started in high school. An official table tennis surface is 5 feet wide by 9 feet long, but he couldn’t afford to buy such a table, so he learned to play on a 4-by-4 piece of plywood, which improved his game. He didn’t play in college, the military or medical school, but began playing again in Seattle for recreation. He still plays several times a week.

Scott became known as a top player in the Northwest in the 1970s — coaching, officiating, chairing the USA Table Tennis (USATT) Disciplinary Committee from 1973 through 1982 and being named chair of the first USATT Sports Medicine and Science Committee in 1982. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Olympic Committee asked him to assist with drug testing, and he then began a relationship with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Sports Science Committee and drug testing program that continues today.

He has been an official in one capacity or another for every Olympic sport except equestrian since 1985; served as team physician for many Olympic sports; umpired at national and international table tennis championships; and has officiated at the Special Olympics World Games, USA Wheelchair National Championships, Paralympic Games and the Pan American Games.

Scott continued to play competitively and holds the USA National Senior Champion title in singles or doubles for 50 and older, 60 and older, 70 and older, and 80 and older. Needless to say, all of this has led him to crisscross the globe many times, to countries too numerous to mention. It also has led to many guest lectureships, titles and awards, including the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy. And then there are the interesting stories and encounters.

At a mixed-doubles finals in Cuba, USA vs. Cuba, “(Cuban President Fidel) Castro asked me to umpire. They probably shouldn’t have allowed me to do that, but the ITTF knew me so well and knew that I would be fair, so they said it was fine.”

“In the U.S., table tennis is a minor sport, but in Europe it’s a professional sport and in China it’s the No. 1 sport,” Scott said. “Table tennis has shown me a cross-section of humanity. Everyone is considered equal in the sport.”

He said his Creighton education often struck a common chord across the globe. “You can’t believe what an excellent reputation Creighton has. Once I was giving a lecture in Borneo and a guy came up to me and said he had heard Creighton University is excellent.” Another time, a person in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, approached him and said his friend had gone to Creighton. And, in Cuba, Scott said Creighton baseball players were household names.

Two-time table tennis Olympian and five-time U.S. champion Sean O’Neill, who is currently the communications director for USATT, said Scott has had a profound impact on the sport of table tennis, both nationally and internationally. “As a player, coach, team leader, tournament director and drug-testing expert for the U.S. Olympic Committee and International Table Tennis Federation, Dr. Scott has truly earned his spot in the sport’s Hall of Fame.”

This year, Scott said he has tapered off somewhat as a competitive player. But there is one thing on his calendar already for May 2017: He is one of only five in the world to be invited to compete in the World’s Veterans (over 40) Table Tennis Championship in Alicante, Spain.