A balancing act

Published: August 4th, 2016

Category: Alumni Portraits

Michael M. Holloway, M.D. ’99, led UF to five SEC championships in pole vaulting.

Michael M. Holloway, M.D. ’99, led UF to five SEC championships in pole vaulting.

By Tyler Francischine

It’s been suggested time and time again achieving homeostasis is an ideal state of being.

Two alumni, David L. Roberts, M.D. ’79, and Michael M. Holloway, M.D. ’99, struck a balance between their course work at the UF College of Medicine and intense physical training for pole vaulting at the Olympic trials and games.

In 1976, Roberts received a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal. He also completed his first year as a medical student at the College of Medicine. He said even though he didn’t have much spare time, the year was easy for him.

“The class work helped the training,” he said. “I studied until I went crazy. Then I trained. It was like pushing the clear button on the calculator.”

Roberts trained daily for four years, combining gymnastics, sprinting and pole vaulting. The training served as a means for him to clear his head of the stresses of medical school.

“It’s been proven that physical exertion really improves your thinking and brain function, just like it does your cardiovascular functions,” he said. “If you’re just sitting around, you’re going to be obsessed. It was a complete relief to go run 100 (yards).”

One of his fondest memories from the era could have been disastrous, but it ended up a testament to the camaraderie of the athletes at the 1976 Olympic trials.

David L. Roberts, M.D. ’79, broke the pole vaulting world record at the 1976 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

David L. Roberts, M.D. ’79, broke the pole vaulting world record at the 1976 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

“At the first vault, I broke my pole. My arm was numb for 30 minutes, but I was lucky. My friend, Earl Bell, whose record I was trying to break, loaned me his pole. I broke his record, and there was no one happier about it than him,” Roberts said. “You’re out there with all your competitors, but they’re also your friends.”

Currently, Roberts is an emergency physician and clinical assistant professor at the UF College of Medicine, involved with the residency program. He said his experiences being on the 1972 and 1976 Olympics teams still prove useful today.

“It’s a lesson I’ve used throughout my life,” he said. “I can clear my brain and keep that balance.”

Holloway attended the Olympic trials in 1992 and 1996, and he still holds the record for highest pole vault in Florida history at just over 19 feet. He said he was encouraged by former longtime associate dean for student and alumni affairs Hugh M. “Smiley” Hill, M.D., to continue his pole vault training along with his studies.

“I explained to him that the Olympics fall on the year I’d start medical school. He said, ‘We have a precedent with this. What do you need to make this happen?’” Holloway said.

College of Medicine professors helped him structure a part-time curriculum, which allowed him to attend the 1992 Olympic trials in New Orleans and compete internationally the next five years. He said his full schedule only increased his productivity.

“You perform better when you’re challenged and under pressure — with a full plate,” he said.

Today, Holloway serves as medical director for Ocala’s Lifestyle Solutions Medical Spa. Specializing in bariatrics, he treats obesity and related disorders using the lessons he learned from his pole vaulting days.

“When we’re challenged and we have several goals, we’re at our best,” he said. “Life is always a balance. We go through challenging times, but we have to find that center point and raise the bar, one inch at a time.”