Dr. Jonathan Sack: Doctor without borders

Dr. Jonathan SackIn 1984, Dr. Jonathan Sack was a 35-year-old physician who had been practicing for 10 years in Johannesburg. But apartheid-era tensions in his South African hometown were boiling over, manifesting themselves in racial and political violence, and Sack decided it was time to prepare an escape.

“It was starting to get ugly,” he says. “It was getting unpleasant living there.”

He and his wife, Amy, hopped on a sailboat and spent a few months cruising the world. And a fortunate jaunt up the east coast of America put them on a course straight to Hilton Head. “We stopped here for gas and never left,” he says. “I didn’t really know the place existed before.”

Now, 26 years later, Sack still works with Amy at their long-rooted family practice at the corner of Marshland Road and Mathews Drive. But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped moving: Sack owns a collection of five motorcycles that range from a 2010 Indian to a 1977 BMW — the very same bike that hooked him when he spotted it on sale for 25 rand (about $4 today) in a downtown Johannesburg window. On weekends, he rides to Florida or up to the mountains to get some open road (and avoid disturbing his neighbors). “It’s a good way of healing the soul and having some good time to myself,” he says.

But the doctor was among good company on his 60th birthday, when he made the 3,000-mile trip to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. He was hooked on the experience and is planning a return in 2011. “You never know what’s under the surface,” he says, “Doctors, lawyers, mechanics. Everybody gets equaled out.”

Still, as a physician, he has advice for fellow bikers: “Wear a helmet. It’s amazing to see how many people in South Carolina riding around without one.”