Taking Her Skills Abroad
An Interview with Dr. Calla Holmgren
Calla Holmgren C’95, a medical doctor specializing in obstetrics and safe labor practices, is a fourth generation North Parker, but she almost opted to remain in her home state of California for college. She credits her twin sister Jenny with encouraging her to come along on a campus visit to North Park; the eventual decision to move to Chicago and attend North Park is one she never regretted. Today, Dr. Holmgren is a physician at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, and says North Park remains a very special place for her and her family.
During her time on campus, Holmgren majored in biology and pursued a minor in chemistry. Taking classes from longtime North Park professors Lee Horten, Frank DeBoer, and Pete Pearson, she found her way into a pre-med program that culminated with an internship at the University of Illinois in Chicago. From there she went on to perform research in the areas of fetal heart rate tracings, labor, and C-section rates in the United States. In addition to her position at Intermountain Healthcare, Holmgren also holds a position as assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah.
“The science department at North Park—all of the professors—did a great job in helping me set realistic goals,” says Holmgren. “They helped me prepare for my MCAT and did practice interviews with the students. Most of all, they challenged me to think about the diligence it would take to get through medical school. Pursuing a career in medicine is such a big commitment in terms of years of study and delayed professional gratification. But my advisor, Dr. Pete Pearson C’65, really helped me focus on my goals and supported me in my decision to go to medical school.” Holmgren also cites her mother, Kathy Holmgren C’69, a North Park nursing graduate, as an inspiration in her pursuit of a medical career.
In the spirit of service, Dr. Holmgren has taken her skills abroad, working with Medical Teams International in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and Haiti. As recently as January 2011, she was in Port au Prince providing medical services to earthquake victims, many of them suffering from cholera. She performed labor and delivery services in a tent village where Haitian refugees had no other access to healthcare. Holmgren feels her experience at North Park inspired her with a good work ethic and a desire to do something more. States Holmgren, “My North Park education also taught me to go out and make the world a better place. That’s part of the mission of the school: Make a contribution and do something useful with your life.”
Holmgren notes that North Park has produced generations of talented doctors and scientists who are working in communities across the globe today, and wants to make sure that future graduates of North Park have the best facilities, laboratories, and classrooms in which to learn. Her financial support of her alma mater reflects this commitment: “My family feels strongly that North Park must continue to be a place of excellence. When I was studying at North Park, we made good use of the facilities we had, and the faculty prepared us well, but science moves very quickly, and we need to focus on the future. We need to make sure we are providing the latest and greatest technologies for our students.”
Most of all, Holmgren encourages students to get the most out of every moment of their education. “The more you get into education, the more you realize it’s about self-learning,” says Holmgren. “You get out what you put into it, and it’s not just about ‘getting through’ college or a residency. Your own personal motivation is key. My hope is that North Park students will immerse themselves in their studies and get everything they can out of this unique and nurturing learning environment.”
Elizabeth Lamberti G'2009 lives in Chicago