A Breakthrough in Health

Caltech trustee David Ho (BS ’74) did something uncommon after graduating from Caltech: He went to medical school and became a physician. At the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s—seeing young men suddenly afflicted by a mysterious and deadly illness—he became one of the first investigators to dedicate their efforts to the disease.

In 1996, Ho’s research team published results that changed the way science looked at HIV/AIDS. These revelations pointed to treatment with anti-retroviral therapy, the “drug cocktail” that would tip the balance against the disease, extending and improving countless lives. Since then, Ho has been heaped with honors, including Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1996, the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001, and a Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015. But what he relishes most is the occasional thanks from people he encounters in his everyday life who recognize him as a scientist whose discoveries have touched their lives.

In this video, Ho, scientific director and chief executive officer at Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, talks about his experiences with patients during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, how his research team accomplished the breakthrough that helped turn HIV/AIDS into a manageable condition, and how his Caltech training prepared him to make such an impact on society.

Giving Priorities