Retired world-renowned oncologist, oldest Haig Point resident enjoying island life

 

Dr. Hoogstraten
 
Dr. Barth Hoogstraten
 

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re Dutch.”

So says the bumper sticker on the front of one of many individually owned golf carts that roll around Daufuskie Island, where cars are not allowed, save for maintenance and construction vehicles. 

That golf cart belongs to Dr. Barth Hoogstraten, a resident of Haig Point, a private club and community situated on the eastern half of the island.  Haig Point is a half-hour’s journey by boat from its neighbor, the much more bustling Hilton Head Island.  But visiting Daufuskie and Haig Point, one would think it a world away, a paradise of sorts, populated by proud, fascinating people.  People like Dr. Hoogstraten.

He speaks of a condition he calls islanditis.

“You either love it or you get the hell out of there,” he says, conceding that the isolated nature of the place puts some people off while instantly captivating others.

Count the 87-year old Dr. Hoogstraten and his wife Nienke (with whom he celebrates 60 years of marriage in 2012) among the latter. So quickly and completely did the place seize them with its abiding tranquility and beauty during their first visit in 1995 that they left a couple days later having bought property.

There are few better mind-clearing places than Haig Point, with natural splendor all around.

“When a tree falls, no one comes to pick it up,” says Dr. Hoogstraten. “It takes up to eight years for it to return to the earth completely.  It’s remarkable.”

This respect for things that take time belies the appreciation of the lush, relaxed pace of island life.  For Dr. Hoogstraten, that pace is a welcome contrast to the eventfulness and periodic chaos of his life before retirement.

Dr. Barth Hoogstraten’s story begins in his native Holland where, as a 10-year-old boy, he developed a tumor on his foot. He was so fascinated when the surgeon removed the sutures that from then on, he wanted to be a doctor.  That passion for medicine would lead him to a long career that saw him named the first American Cancer Society’s Professor of Clinical Oncology and chairman of the Southwest Oncology Group, but not before he lived through one of the most turbulent times in history in his native Holland.

Dr. Hoogstraten was a medical student when the Nazi party rose to power.  Because of his and other medical students’ opposition to that force, he was forced to go into hiding.  His family was persecuted and he lost his grandmother and an uncle in that ordeal.  He hid out with two blind music teachers and narrowly escaped the Nazis’ clutches when they found out where he was.  He worked in a coal mine for the remainder of the war and reenrolled in medical school in 1949.  He left Holland for the United States in 1956, where he began working at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.  The rest, until his retirement from medicine in 1993, is history.
 
In recent years, Dr. Hoogstraten has turned to writing both as a way of keeping busy and as an outlet for both his medical expertise and his rich life experience.  In addition to of four medical texts, he authored a historical non-fiction narrative called Resistance Fighters: The Immense Struggle of Holland During World War II in 2008 and two works of memoir: 2001’s Eyes of the Blind, which recounts the doctor’s experience hiding from the Nazis, and 2005’s Cancer Doctor, in which Dr. Hoogstraten reflects on his storied medical career.  His eighth book, a historical novel about Reformation-era thinker Desiderius Erasmus, debuted in January 2012.

Dr. Hoogstraten has little intention to slow down.  He plays golf at least twice a week, weather-permitting, and continues to write, all while enjoying the exquisite natural setting of Daufuskie Island and Haig Point.  In short, he has much to be proud of. That golf cart bumper sticker is a fitting one.
 
About Haig Point
Haig Point is a charming sea island community just off the coast of South Carolina, between Hilton Head and Savannah, Ga. There is no bridge, so the island is accessible only by a private ferry system originating from Hilton Head Island.

Residents and guests drive electric carts to the eclectic points of interest in and around the community, including the historic Haig Point Lighthouse (built in 1873), Strachan Mansion and the tabby ruins of 19th century slave quarters. The community is also home to a stunning Rees Jones Signature golf course. Amenities at Haig Point Club also include a full-service tennis center, equestrian center, two restaurants and a community park. For more information about the island or real estate opportunities, call (800) 686-3441, or visit www.HaigPoint.com.

 

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