An American Dream Fulfilled: Dr. David Ho

From the time of this nation’s birth, immigrants have crossed to America’s shores in pursuit of new lives built with hard work, determination, and ingenuity. Their immense contributions are part of the very fabric of this country. To celebrate the incredible talent and diversity that immigrants have brought to our land over hundreds of years, MurthyDotCom periodically highlights the light of a notable immigrant who has left a lasting mark on history. The latest entry in our continuing series, entitled An American Dream Fulfilled, is HIV/AIDS researcher and viral epidemic expert, Dr. David Ho.

Born in Taichung, Taiwan, in 1952, Ho immigrated to Los Angeles, CA with his mother and younger brother at the age of twelve. The family was reunited at that time with Ho’s father, who had come to the United States several years earlier to earn money and make a better life for his wife and children. Ho was initially teased by his new classmates because he did not speak any English. However, he soon mastered the language and graduated from high school at the top of his class. After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1970, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the California Institute of Technology and a medical degree from Harvard. During his residency at the UCLA School of Medicine, Ho developed an interest in infectious diseases, specifically the virus that causes HIV/AIDS, and decided to devote his career to battling the disease. [See the biography of Dr. David Ho,]

Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Ho spearheaded a series of ambitious research projects that explored the nature of the HIV/AIDS virus. One of his most groundbreaking discoveries concerned the way the disease replicated itself inside the body of an infected person. He proved that the virus began multiplying immediately after entering the body, causing the immune system to go into overdrive and exhaust itself in an attempt to fight it off. This was contrary to the popular belief at the time that the virus lay dormant for months or even years after initial infection. Dr. Ho’s findings revolutionized the course of HIV/AIDS treatment, paving the way for a highly effective drug “cocktail” given during the early stages of infection when the body’s defense systems are still relatively strong. While the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS is still ongoing, Dr. Ho’s research and the subsequent development of the “cocktail” protocol have allowed millions of those infected with the virus to enjoy a high quality of life and an extended lifespan that in some cases is equivalent to those without the disease. [See the entry for David Ho,]

After being named director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the world’s largest non-profit AIDS research institute, Dr. Ho continued his work to fight against HIV/AIDS, while also turning his attention to other deadly diseases. In the early 2000s, he and his research team developed antibodies that potentially could be used to develop future treatments for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS.) Currently, he is leading a team of researchers at Columbia University in an intense effort to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus that has swept across the globe in recent months and created a worldwide pandemic. Dr. Ho recently told NBC New York that he and his team are “working day and night, including weekends, for close to a month or so” to develop an effective long-term treatment, proving that a potential end to the crises that has caused tens of thousands of deaths to date may very well lie in the hands of an immigrant who has devoted his life to making the world a safer and healthier place. [See COVID-19: Are We Close to a Novel Coronavirus Vaccine? by Jennifer Vasquez, 04.Mar.2020, updated 30.Mar.2020.]


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