An Enterprising Pediatrician Expands His Mentors’ Influence

Monica Holb ’09

Scientific theories comprise some of the lessons Butler University students receive in Gallahue Hall. One, for example, is Hubble’s law, which describes the expanding universe. In the law’s equation—velocity = H x distance— the H stands for Hubble’s constant. 

But if that equation were adjusted to explain the expanding influence of Butler’s science departments in the universe, the H might stand for Hole: Dr. Michael Hole ’08. 

 

Hole graduated from Butler less than a decade ago; received his MD and MBA from Stanford University; and spent time in Ecuador, Guatemala, Uganda, and Haiti. Now a pediatrician and clinical fellow at Harvard, Hole is committed to improving life trajectories for the poorest children. Around the world, many children are better off because of Butler scientists’ influence on Hole. 

“The part of science I like is its potential impact on the human experience beyond the classrooms and laboratories. Scientists, often humbly behind the scenes, make life better for each of us,” Hole said. “The mentors I had at Butler pushed me to apply their teaching outside the classroom, which led me to Timmy Global Health.”

Hole, who founded the Butler chapter of Timmy Global Health, an organization fighting for global health equity, credits his professors for shaping his work. Mentors such as Professors Bob Pribush, Thomas Dolan, Shelley Etnier, Phil Villani, Carmen Salsbury, and John Esteb taught him the minutiae of biology and chemistry, while placing the learning in a broader context. 

“You may think that learning how a muscle contracts is silly as a student. But imagine you understand that and can apply it for someone whose muscles aren’t working. You can help them work better,” Hole said. 

When Hole worked with a medical service team in Ecuador, he saw the effects of developing-world poverty on human suffering. “That broke my heart,” he said. The experience moved Hole to focus on becoming a physician for underprivileged children. 

“The Butler Way, if you will, supported me to take on leadership positions and to start organizations aimed at those social injustices,” Hole said. 

This support, particularly from Pribush and the late President Bobby Fong, allowed Hole to begin a fundraising campaign to build a school in Uganda. After raising $50,000 and partnering with Building Tomorrow, an organization providing access to education in hard-to-reach areas, Hole is proud to say the school now serves 350 children. The students, aged 4 to 14, learn science among other subjects, and the Butler influence continues its expansion. 

Hole has since kept in touch with his Butler science mentors. “They have been instrumental in helping me think about how to increase the impact of the missions of the organizations I’ve created,” he said. 

Among those organizations is StreetCred. As a pediatrician, Hole sees the negative impact of poverty on children’s health. He lamented that resources were available, but inaccessible. StreetCred helps parents file their taxes and apply for and access the benefits they can put toward children’s health—and it is all done in the doctor’s waiting room. 

“Butler had patience with me. They taught me and got me fired up about scientific thinking because of the implications it could have on human suffering. What is unique is that they are not only interested in scientific thinking, but are experts in mentorship; they are experts in trying to understand what gets me out of bed in the morning so they can apply their expertise to that,” Hole said. 

Yet, the biology major who became a doctor doesn’t necessarily think of himself as a scientist. 

“What I do is mostly social. If you find a cure for cancer, but you can’t get it to the poorest people, there is a gap. That is my passion—figuring out how to use the brilliant minds and breakthroughs of scientists and getting it to the people who need it most.” 

For children around the world, the universe is indeed expanding, leading to health and opportunity—in large part because of the Butler scientists who continue to influence Dr. Hole.