Professor Holst has a Medical Degree and a Diploma of Public Health from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark
He finished his academic career as Professor and chair of the Institute of Social Medicine at the University of Copenhagen where he pioneered the introduction of social and behavioral sciences and the humanities into a traditional natural science oriented medical school. From 1975-79 he chaired the National Advisory Committee to the Minister of Education on Higher Education in the Health Sciences.
Throughout his professional career he was a leading figure in the Danish medical profession and served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Danish Medical Journal from1967-80, as President of the Standing Committee of Doctors of the European Union from 1977-79, and finally as President of Danish Medical Association from1980-86.
In 1990 he was invited to take over the chairmanship of the board of the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, RCT, Copenhagen, with the consequence that from 1993 he left both the University of Copenhagen and Denmark to become full-time Executive Vice-President of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) managing IRCT’s Geneva Liaison Office.
He organized International Symposia on Torture as a Challenge to the Medical and other Health Professions in Bucharest in 1991, in Istanbul in 1992, in Buenos Aires in 1993 and in Cape Town in 1995. He retired from IRCT in 1999 after the successful International Seminar on Torture which he organized in Delhi in collaboration with the Indian Medical Association, the Indian National Human Rights Commission and the Indian Law Institute. The opening speech was held by the Chief Justice of India.
He was member of the Danish Government Delegation to the UN World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, where Denmark managed to introduce a whole page on the issue of torture and he was subsequently a member of the Danish Government Delegations to the 52nd, 53rd, 54th and 55th sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Geneva 1996-99
From 2001-09 he was a Board member of the Association for Prevention of Torture (APT) in Geneva and has since 2000 served as honorary international consultant to the ICAR Foundation, Romania.