The Importance of Humility



Daughter of Dr. David Ho

My father, Dr. David Ho, is famous for his work in HIV/AIDS research. His portrait graced the cover of Time Magazine in 1996 when he was honored with the designation of Man of the Year. He was bestowed the Presidential Citizen’s Medal by President Clinton in 2001. People all over the world have now heard of my father and of his important contributions to medical research. But to me, he’s just “Dad” and that is more than enough. The renown that has followed my father’s success in medical research and activism has had a dramatic impact on his life; as my father has said, “The spotlight is hot enough to bake.” Yet fame has not changed my father or the way I see him. I have watched my father remain true to himself and his principles even with the eyes of the world upon him. If anything, watching my father occupy his place on the world stage has merely given me a clearer sense of who he has always been.

My earliest memories of my father are of him telling me every morning to get out of bed. “Get up,” he’d say, “rise to the challenges and the opportunities this day will afford you. Go out and find the things that make you happy. Live your life with passion.” It was not an admonishment but an invitation, one that I accepted from an early age. From the time we were children, my brother, my younger sister and I all embraced our parents’ commitment to getting the most out of life – “living up to our potential.” My father’s devotion to medical research was matched by my mother’s dedication to art. At the same time, my parents’ commitment to each other and to our family never wavered, as busy and complicated as life became.
When I was 4 years old my mother and baby brother moved to Los Angeles to live with my grandfather as he battled cancer. This left my father with the responsibility of taking care of me in Boston while he finished his fellowship at Mass General. Dad’s domestic skills were sparse – macaroni and cheese was his home-cooked staple – but I never felt less than cherished by my father, even during this emotionally trying time. In fact, I still enjoy that gooey, orange insta-dish – it’s the taste of home. Later, when I was in college, my father sent a colleague in his place to give an important speech so that he could attend my school recital. This dedication to working toward ambitious goals while treasuring family ties has given me a set of values that run deep within me. For anyone to be an important part of my life today, they must understand these values and share them.

My father and I live on opposite coasts now, but we still talk often. He sends me his articles to read and gives me advice. There is always an air of teaching in our interactions; lessons imparted with conviction and always a great deal of love. I have worked with my father in the past and look forward to doing so again in the future, perhaps with some more life experience and wisdom under my belt. My father is still seeking his own new life experiences, new wisdom, as well. He has recently started studying Chinese poetry. Though no one’s idea of a singer, he will step up to the plate on karaoke night and bravely belt one out. I think he may even be learning to relax a little. He remains a gifted teacher who is not afraid to be a student again; a truly humble and unassuming Man of the Year.

I remember flipping through the contact sheets of all the headshots that they took for the cover of Time. Seeing all the faces of my dad evoked a lot of emotion in me. In my favorite shot, one that never made the magazine, he is looking into the camera, straight-faced, but with one corner of his mouth curled up in a bemused almost-smile. A serious man who would never take himself too seriously; who could find joy in both teaching and learning. Of course, I could see in this photo what the editors would not have known to look for – the modesty, the quiet good humor, the deep emotions carried with great dignity; this was the true portrait of my father.

David D. Ho, M.D. has been actively engaged in AIDS research for 24 years and is most recognized for the elucidation of the dynamic nature of HIV replication in infected persons. As a result of his discoveries, there have been dramatic reductions in AIDS-associated mortality in developed countries since 1996. Dr. Ho has received numerous honors and awards for his scientific accomplishments. He was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1996, and was the recipient of a Presidential Medal in 2001.

Kathryn Ho, born on August 15th, 1978, works in entertainment marketing for Yahoo! Inc. She resides in Marina del Rey, California.