Skip to main content

Michael Holtz has remained driven through all of life’s challenges


Michael Holtz attending an event on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Michael Holtz began working for ORAU in 2017, and he has seen his role grow to places he never would have imagined. Holtz works in the Communications and Marketing department as a Senior Communications and Marketing Specialist. Within this role, Holtz does many things, including being the creator and host of Further Together: The ORAU Podcast and the ORISE Featurecast. He also is the leader of media relations activities and the program manager for Extreme Classroom Makeover and the Education Grants program.

“The culture of the company is amazing. We always talk about employee empowerment, and my career path at ORAU is a testament to being an empowered employee,” said Holtz. “We have incredible stories to tell within the company. The fact that I get to be a part of telling those stories really satisfies my inner journalist.”

Before coming to ORAU, Holtz had several other jobs. Most recently, he was director of community assessment and health promotion for the Knox County Health Department. During his time with the health department, Holtz oversaw a team of health educators as well as the epidemiology team, which was responsible for a community health assessment. He has also worked for St. Mary’s Health System in the public relations department, as well as the Farragut Press as a journalist.

One of the roles that was more than just a job for Holtz was serving as Regional Director for Media Advocacy for the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. He covered 14 states from Delaware to Florida and from the Atlantic coast to Arkansas doing media outreach related to legislative campaigns, like access to health care and tobacco control. While he had always enjoyed his role, things took a turn in 2012 and the message hit a lot closer to home.


Michael Holtz finishing last round of chemotherapy.


Just five days after his 43rd birthday, Holtz heard the words that every person fears, “you have cancer.” As it turns out, it was stage-3b rectal cancer. While the road wasn’t easy, Holtz used his drive and support from others to make it through. Between the oral chemotherapy, radiation treatments, surgery, a permanent colostomy, and follow up chemotherapy infusions, he made the choice to remain positive and fight through it all. Holtz still considers himself one of the lucky ones.

“I know far too many people who have succumbed to colorectal cancer who were diagnosed at the same stage I was,” said Holtz. “I know far too many people who have faced cancer of any kind.”

While the road was never easy, Holtz decided early on to turn his pain into purpose. He is heavily involved with several cancer advocacy groups. Holtz is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, as well as with Fight Colorectal Cancer and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Recently, he has become a leadership volunteer for Man Up to Cancer, an organization intent on keeping men from isolating and helping them find connection when they have been diagnosed with cancer.


Michael Holtz alongside Trevor Maxwell, founder of Man Up to Cancer.

Holtz has been nationally recognized for his cancer advocacy. In 2021 he received the Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy, the highest honor that can be given to an ACS CAN volunteer. This year, he received the Robert S. and Jean E. Graetz Advocacy Award from the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for his commitment to reducing the cancer burden among black and LGBTQIA individuals.

While the recognition is nice, Holtz is driven by a higher purpose.

“I feel called to do the cancer advocacy work that I do,” said Holtz. “In the first five years after my diagnosis, there was a 95% likelihood that I would have a recurrence, and that didn’t happen to me. Given the statistics, I should have gotten sick again and should have passed away. Since I am still here, I have felt called to do everything I can to help other people not have to hear those words.”

Through his work with ORAU, his work within the cancer advocacy world, and all his other extracurricular activities, Holtz continues to live each day as a new opportunity to enjoy everything that life has to offer.

ORAU Media Contacts and Information

About ORAU

ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, provides science, health, and workforce solutions that address national priorities and serve the public interest. Through our specialized teams of experts and access to a consortium of more than 150 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local, and commercial customers to provide innovative scientific and technical solutions and help advance their missions. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Media Contacts

Pam BoneeDirector, CommunicationsCell: (865) 603-5142
Wendy WestManager, CommunicationsCell: (865) 207-7953