From close-knit track teams to life-saving medical teams

Chris Holstege ’88, professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the University of Virginia, and internationally known toxicologist, thinks there’s a misperception about track and field teams.

“Some believe track and field as simply individuals competing in solo events, but it is truly a team sport,” he said. “We are pulling for all members of the collective team. You’ll often see fellow athletes surrounding the track to cheer individual runners while closely following the team point totals.”

He goes on to say that in NCAA Division III athletics, the team aspect goes even farther.

Teammates who may never score points are often critically important to the overall success of the squad due to how each may contribute in other ways Holstege, who was recently named the 2017 Knight of Distinction (an award that recognizes a former Knight who has served God, church and community), said that his Calvin track and field experiences were the perfect training for his vocation in emergency medicine.

“We manage exceedingly complex patients, and every emergency department member has a critical role to play. The team has to work in concert to help the patient,” he said.

The same goes for toxicology. “There’s a puzzle to be solved in a poisoning situation, and the solution is not a solo endeavor,” said Holstege.

Holstege was a hurdler for the Knights, both high and low, ran sprints and was on relay teams.

Holstege’s chemistry background at Calvin prepared him for further work in toxicology, where he is called upon by domestic and international governmental entities to assist in perplexing poisoning situations or other chemical-related medical puzzles.

Among the most famous of these were the Ukrainian dioxin poisoning of a presidential candidate, the terrorist use of chemicals in a Moscow theater and the Captain Phillips hostage negotiations off the coast of Somalia.

“I find that the training we received at Calvin and our Reformed worldview taught us above all to be compassionate,” he said, “and to be especially watchful for the most vulnerable among us. I am blessed to lead a dedicated team of individuals that compassionately cares for vulnerable patients, teaches medical trainees to do likewise and performs research to assure that appropriate care is widely distributed throughout the world through scholarship.”