More than 25 years ago, Dr. David Nichols '70 of White Stone, Va., made a promise to the 600 residents of tiny Tangier Island, an isolated community located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. He would visit them once a week, stitching up the cuts that result from hard work on the water and treating the symptoms of “Tangier Disease,” a rare genetic condition found on the island that causes high cholesterol and heart attacks.
Nichols has kept his word, and provided care to inhabitants of the island, descendants of English settlers who still speak a dialect linguists say is similar to English spoken during Elizabethan times.
An airplane and helicopter pilot, Nichols has flown the 25 miles to Tangier Island once a week for 27 years, becoming part of the fabric of life in the community, where the majority of residents are the descendants of five or six founding families.
Nichols also has a rural medical practice in White Stone, Va. He earned his medical degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
The award, given by Staff Care, one of the country's leading physician staffing firms, “recognizes the spirit, skill and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners,” and has been presented since 1992 to honor “exemplary primary care physicians practicing in communities of 20,000 or less.”
As the “Country Doctor of the Year,” Nichols has been given two weeks of time off courtesy of Staff Care, which will provide a temporary physician to fill in for him.