Former hockey captain beats cancer twice and becomes physician

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Chris Haltigin ’12 (biomedical sciences), one of 20 Division I hockey players nominated for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, is now an obstetrics-gynecology resident in Michigan.

Dr. Chris Haltigin ’12 (biomedical sciences) had finished his second year of medical school and was studying for his first set of board exams when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Forty-eight hours later, the former RIT hockey captain was in surgery. “It was scary and it happened at a very critical time for all medical students,” Haltigin said.

The surgery in May 2015 worked and Haltigin’s cancer went into remission. Seven weeks later, he took the board exam, did well and his medical education stayed on track.

Until December 2016. That’s when he learned the cancer had returned in the form of a tennis-ball-sized tumor deep in his abdomen. This time he was in the middle of residency interviews and was three months away from finishing medical school.

The mass was in a hard-to-reach location, so surgery wasn’t an option. Instead, he would need nine weeks of chemotherapy, which would require him to take a leave of absence from medical school. But he was still determined to complete his studies.

He finished his last clinical rotation one day before graduation.

“Just beating cancer in itself is really special and something that will define me for the rest of my life, but I beat cancer twice during medical school and finished on time,” Haltigin said. “It was pretty crazy but it’s something I’m unbelievably proud of.”

Today, Haltigin is an obstetrics-gynecology resident at Beaumont-Royal Oak Health System outside of Detroit. He interviewed for the position days before he started chemotherapy in January 2017.

Haltigin said although nothing can prepare a person for a cancer diagnosis, his time at RIT as a student-athlete taught him how to deal with challenges in a rational fashion. It also gave him a competitive edge, which helped him get into medical school.

Haltigin said the first time he took the Medical College Admission Test while he was an undergraduate at RIT, it didn’t go as well as he would have liked.

“I am so competitive,” he said. “It ultimately was like someone telling me I can’t do something. I was going to prove I can do it.”

Haltigin took it again after he graduated, and after playing a year of professional hockey in the ECHL league for the Alaska Aces, he enrolled in medical school at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. (His hockey teammate Dr. Riley Clark ’12 (biomedical sciences) also went there.)

Initially he wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon because he had bonded with his own surgeon who repaired his hip twice. But after doing an ob-gyn rotation as a third-year student, he fell in love with the specialty. He loves delivering babies.

He also likes working at Beaumont, where another teammate and close friend Dr. Trevor Eckenswiller ’12 (biomedical sciences) works as a resident in emergency medicine.

“I am really grateful for the people who have supported me,” Haltigin said. “I am grateful for where I have ended up today.”