“He was really bad off, you know. I think they had him in a coma for about two months and they literally saved him," Holt said. "It was just insane that he even survived at all and it was a surgeon that did it – in fact, an army guy."
His time in the hospital, along with his friend's experience, that made him realize it was time to follow his longtime goal of becoming a surgeon.
Holt’s expertise from serving as a special forces medic is highly valued by the UNC School of Medicine.The school is now trying to recruit more veterans into their Physicians Assistant (PA) program, which Holt continually provides advice on.
Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Director of the UNC Craniofacial Center, Amelia Drake, worked with Holt on developing a plan for the recruitment of returning special forces medics.
“Clearly he has a maturity, a sense of leadership and an understanding of the relevance of what he’s learning way beyond his years or his peers,” Drake said.
Drake said one of the first and best PA programs started at Duke University after the Vietnam War, but the program has now moved away from recruiting veterans to generally recruiting high achievers in the classroom.
“We felt like with all the returning veterans now from the Iraq and the Afghanistan that we had an opportunity to ... open a program that would appeal to those veterans,” Drake said.
Holt’s wife, Christine Guel, said that she is very proud of his work ethic and determination, even though at times balancing all the work can be extremely tough, especially while raising children.
“He has remained positive the whole process," Guel said. "You could go easily the other way, but he is the most positive person I have ever met, all things considered, and he’s a true inspiration."
Holt is extremely grateful to UNC and for the opportunity to become a general surgeon with the hopes of becoming a critical care trauma surgeon. He is now studying in the M.D. program at UNC but is still having to deal with surgeries from the attack eight years ago.