We know him as the arbiter of all things social on Dewees, keeping our Social Committee alive with great activities, bringing us to order with a clap or a bell, and helping improve our quality of live on the island. In his real life, Peter is a leader in his field, and as he gets ready to retire, he has released a book about his adventures.
Dr. Peter Cotton, a resident of Dewees Island, has released his autobiographical memoir of his professional career as a gastro-enterologist. Humorously titled The Tunnel at the End of the Light, the book chronicles his journey from a young resident to a sought-after physician who developed cutting-edge procedures and introduced new procedures all over the world.
His main clinical focus throughout has been in pancreatic and biliary diseases, and the use of the technique called endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (which he named, and is now thankfully known as ERCP).
Peter is scheduled to do his last ERCP tomorrow, May 13, and his family has come to celebrate with him. We look forward to seeing more of him on the island with his retirement.
The book club is discussing this book on Wednesday, May 19th, so think about heading to Dewees for that, if you have a chance. I really enjoyed reading this book… true to the cover, it is a lighthearted look at some pretty awesome medical advances. I caught up with Peter to ask him the following questions:
What made you decide to write your autobiography?
I didn’t really. Someone, maybe Marion, suggested that I write down some of the stories that I tell at dinners about my odd experiences around the world. At the same time I decided to write letters to my grandchildren telling them how life was very different 60 years ago. Suddenly I had most of a book.
How long did the writing process take?
About a year in spurts.
What is the most interesting thing you learned writing this book?
Good question. Maybe how lucky I am to have found a vehicle for my career that allowed me to flourish academically, but also to travel and make great friends around the world.
My main contribution has been in the technique I describe called “ERCP”. I have been very closely associated with teaching it all over the world, but also in driving research and quality initiatives.
You feature a number of quotes from colleagues past. Was it a fun adventure to look them up, or had you stayed in relatively constant contact?
The ones I asked have all remained friends. Others were a little slow to respond.
Were you surprised by any of their recollections, like Dr. Howell’s recollection of your way of dealing with particularly difficult cases?
I wish I could remember things as well as they apparently could!
You have also recently published a book for children. What was that process like?
That book called “When Fred the snake was squished and mended” was actually written for my kids when they were small, a long time ago, but I could never find an appropriate illustrator. I was stimulated to try harder when my kids had children that wanted to hear the story. I am working on Fred2 and Fred3 at present.
Your career has led to some interesting friendships all over the world. Where are your favorite places to visit?
I am not a great tourist, despite having seen many of the world’s wonders. My idea of favorite places is much colored by the people that I know there (and maybe the quality of the local golf courses). But, since you ask, Hong Kong (New York energy with class and beauty), Australia and New Zealand. England can be beautiful in parts, but is really too crowded.
Your last ERCP is scheduled for this month. What special plans do you have? What are some of your goals for retirement?
I am doing my last patient procedure on friday 13th(!), live on CCTV to our big annual GI meeting at Wild Dunes. It seemed a good plan a year ago! The main focus of the meeting for me is to publicize the book and raise money for the new training fund that we have established. Many of my past trainees from Britain, Duke and MUSC will be there. Although stopping patient work, I will remain at MUSC part-time. I have a large research grant from the National Institues of Health for a multi-center study across USA that will keep me busy. Marion said she married me for life but not for lunch. I have interests in several biomedical companies, and in organizations trying to improve quality in medical interventions, and to reduce their risks.
The book is available at www.amazon.com, and signed copies from www.peterbcotton.com. You can send a check for $35 in favor of MUSC Foundation, addressed to Peter Cotton, 25 Courtenay Drive, ART 7100, MSC 290, Charleston, SC, 29425, USA. Do not forget to add your address. All proceeds will benefit the new Endoscopy Training Fund.” — Dr. Peter Cotton