Two UVA Doctors, Known for Research and Compassion, Receive University’s Top Honor

June 7, 2024 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

A pair of UVA Health doctors on Friday received Thomas Jefferson Awards, the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the University community, during the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting.

UVA Provost Ian Baucom presented Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills with the award for scholarship and Dr. Christopher P. Holstege with the award for service.

“These awards are the most prestigious honor that the University presents,” Baucom said at the ceremony. “The give us the opportunity to recognize members of the UVA community who have exemplified the principles, ideals and mission of the University in their character and their life’s work.”

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Platts-Mills, perhaps best known for discovering the link between certain tick bites and a red-meat allergy, is professor of medicine and microbiology. The award citation says he is “considered the leading authority in the world on asthma and allergic diseases.” He joined the faculty in 1982 and has led the allergy division since 1993. He is also noted for his decades of research on how common household allergens – particularly from dust mites, cats and cockroaches – affect the development of childhood allergies and asthma.

The son of a British Parliament member, Platts-Mills received his university degree from Balliol College, University of Oxford; his medical degree from St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London; and his doctorate from London University.

Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, left, poses with Baucom.

Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, left, poses with Baucom. Platts-Mills, who has been with UVA for more than 40 years, is one of the world’s top authorities on asthma and allergic diseases. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

“I am honored to receive the award, but would like to take it as a recognition of the importance of research on patients who tell us stories that don’t initially make sense,” said Platts-Mills, referencing the kinds of medical detective work that sometimes takes place in his field.

Holstege was hired in 1999 and has served as the executive director of the Department of Student Health and Wellness since 2013. He’s also a professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics, the chief of UVA’s Division of Medical Toxicology and the director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center.

The award citation lauds Holstege for his “exceptional contributions to the advancement of medical education, his tireless dedication to the health and well-being of the University community, and his unwavering commitment to the principles of leadership and service.”

He has also served eight years as a member of the Faculty Senate, a group he chaired in 2014. Holstege’s expertise helped the University understand, and respond to, the COVID-19 pandemic four years ago, and he helped develop plans to safely reopen the University for in-person learning.

Dr. Christopher Holstege, left, with Baucom.

Dr. Christopher Holstege, left, with Baucom. Holstege has been with UVA since 1999 and has served in several leadership positions, including as director of Student Health and Wellness. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

Colleagues cited Holstege for transforming a student health operation that once focused mainly on injuries and short-term illnesses into “a thriving, cohesive team providing highly accessible, comprehensive care” to students. Under Holstege’s leadership, Princeton Review in 2023 recognized Student Health and Wellness as the top student health program in the country.

Holstege received his undergraduate degree from Calvin College and his medical degree from the Wayne State University School of Medicine, both in Michigan. He completed his emergency medicine residency at Butterworth Hospital in Michigan and a fellowship in medical toxicology at Indiana University.

“It is humbling to receive this award knowing those who received it in the past,” Holstege said. “This award is truly a testament to the teams that I lead for their dedication in assuring that all that we serve, including those who are from markedly vulnerable populations, receive quality care in a compassionate manner.”

The Thomas Jefferson Awards have been presented annually to members of the University community since 1955.

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications