Living Columns & Blogs

Haig Point resident Barth Hoogstraten has 'much to be proud of'

Thanks to the Haig Point Club for sharing this story of its senior resident:

"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 career around Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, where cars are not allowed, save for maintenance and construction vehicles.

That golf cart belongs to Dr. Barth Hoogstraten, a resident of the private club and community 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, populated by proud, fascinating 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 tranquility and beauty during their first visit in 1995 that they left a couple days later having bought property.

For Dr. Hoogstraten, its pace is a welcome contrast to the 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 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 re-enrolled 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 nonfiction 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.

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 natural setting of Daufuskie Island and Haig Point. He has much to be proud of. That golf cart bumper sticker is a fitting one.