Dr. Richard G. Holt

April 9, 2024

The U.S. Army Retired Colonel reflects on his military career and its impact on his tenure at UIW today.

Dr. Richard HoltThe UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine has many dynamic and engaging faculty members who are military veterans. Their commitment to education, lifelong learning and student growth is evident in every aspect of their careers. One such professor is Dr. Richard G. Holt, Retired Colonel U.S. Army. Holt shares his reflection on his military experiences below and how they have inspired his professional service at UIW.


Professional education and practice in the health professions is indeed a “Service” to society. Each of us in a teaching capacity at a university of higher learning is responsible for serving our professions and those preparing to provide healthcare services themselves. We help develop their cognitive capabilities and knowledge base, professional growth and development, and inculcate the virtues, ethics, and humanism required to serve persons in need of healthcare.

Military photoDuring my thirty years of service as a military physician, I have better understood the importance of service to others—in the clinic, operating room, intensive care unit, recovery room, on the battlefield, and in the classroom. Military service-members deserve our best efforts to keep them safe, functioning and capable. I also had the great privilege of serving veterans in several DoD and VA Medical Centers, which provided me with a better understanding of the lingering effects of military service.

As with many other UIW SOM faculty members who are retirees or veterans, my military service has expanded my view of the term “Service to Others” in a different manner than in the civilian service to society. Together, we amplify the concept of service in the health professions, which can be lifelong.

Dedication and Commitment

Dedication and commitment to caring for each patient over a career in healthcare are fundamental responsibilities. They are also important in the teaching of future healthcare professionals, in the sense that we, as healthcare educators, must endeavor to ensure that learners are exposed to the most current and evidence-based information in healthcare—it is our ethical responsibility to them and their future patients, just as it is the learner’s ethical responsibility to build their knowledge foundation as strongly as possible.

Just as most healthcare professionals embrace an “oath” during their training, military physicians also take an additional oath, the “U.S. Uniformed Services Oath of Office,” affirming a commitment to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States. I firmly believe that both the healthcare oath and the military oath embody the special dedication and commitment of healthcare providers to the myriad populations of our society.

Sense of Community


It is important that healthcare professionals be engaged in the larger community that they serve. Although most healthcare professionals will strive to provide excellent services to their patient population, society also expects them to be engaged in the health and safety of the community of their practice and even the national and global population’s health needs.

Healthcare educators at UIW help learners understand their broader role and responsibility within their communities; to become leaders for change and innovations to improve access to care for all and to help drive initiatives that improve the health of all persons in the community.

As most service-members know, the US military is a huge community of individuals who took the same oath and are dedicated to service to, and support of, their colleagues in uniform. I have seen countless situations where the camaraderie among team members, including medical teams, saves lives and contributes to the success of the mission. Likewise, we can teach health profession learners the importance of working together for the best benefit of the patient, and to understand that, like in the military, a community of competence and dedication can be quite rewarding.

Additionally, some healthcare learners and professionals will look to serving a larger community of need outside the boundaries of normal practice settings. During my service in the military, I had the opportunity to serve in a number of places around the globe, and experienced a wide range of cultures, healthcare systems, and austere environments. My military and civilian international travels have informed and increased my opportunities to teach in the UIWSOM Master of Public Health program, which is an excellent preparation for those healthcare professionals who wish to extend their service to other areas of need.

Personal and Professional

My military service expanded my capabilities as a surgeon and aviation medical officer, and my confidence in my physical abilities to perform challenging and dangerous tasks. I had the chance to meet and work with some of the best physicians I have known and the bravest service members, both patients and non-patients. I gained a better sense of how people can extend the boundaries of their courage and self-sacrifice, helping others survive even at great risk to themselves. I come from a long lineage of citizen-soldiers, dating back to the Revolutionary War, and as a schoolchild I used to hear stories of bravery and sacrifice from my father and his friends at the VFW Hall. I never really understood the truth of their admissions until I served in two combat zones myself. I have great admiration for the capabilities of military personnel in life-threatening situations. That same appreciation for military persons rising to the occasion has helped me see the same dedication and self-sacrifice in the civilian world around me.

Many student physicians in the UIWSOM are veterans, and I believe that I, and my fellow military faculty members, can better relate to them and understand their path at the University, through our own military experiences. I honor military veterans who are now directing their lives to a healthcare profession.