Out-island doctor by Evans W Cottman (1963) guest reviewed by Rebecca Buckley
Drawn initially to the book through a family connection with Abaco, an out-island in the Bahamas, for my parents married there, and my grandfather, like Evans W Cottman, was a doctor, and practised there for a few years in the mid 1980’s..
I found the book to be an easy and enjoyable read. It tells of the author’s own experiences of the islands. His journey begins in 1939, leaving a steady teaching position in the States, and in a complete change of career, heads for the Bahamas, medical books to hand. With an acute shortage of medical men, he is able to practice medicine with a Biochemistry degree but little training, but rapidly gains experience of helping many grateful islanders back to health.
This book is inspiring because Evans Cottman completely turns his life around, forsaking his comfortable career and lifestyle in Madison, Indiana. He meets his Abaco wife, Viola Sawyer, settles on Eleuthera, and later at Marsh Harbour, Abaco. It is a story that many would long to achieve, finding the courage to try something new.
Evans Cottman loved the island life, the joy the people showed, helped of course by the tools of his profession, every patient insisted he ‘sound’ them with his stethoscope! No diagnosis was trusted unless the doctor used the ‘sounding rod’! Some of his experiences were harrowing, such as the difficulties of reaching a safe anchorage for his ketch Green Cross before an impending hurricane, but he grows familiar with the Bahamian waters on his yacht, and the pleasure of building his home. As people say when his boat came in sight, “de doctah done reach”!