Quoc Ho came to America when he was eight years old. The Vietnamese native arrived in California with his parents and two older sisters in 1996. As a third grader, the only language he knew was Vietnamese. "It was sink or swim, so I learned English quickly," recalls Ho. And that's been his modus operandi ever since -- learn the lay of the land quickly, and use the knowledge to propel forward.
After graduating from high school, Ho started undergraduate studies at UCLA and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics in 2011. While at UCLA, he was involved in a preclinical study for a prostate cancer drug, which is now in a phase 3 clinical trial in France. "I really liked it. I got hands on experience in the lab and was listed as an author on a published study. I kind of caught the research bug," says Ho.
During that time, he started to think about what he wanted to do in the future. "I was concerned that I would be boxed into research if I got a PhD and would have to rely on grants. I began to look at career paths where I could still practice clinically and do research, as well. Pharmacy rose to the top of my list. It was the closest to what I wanted to do."
Ho has taken advantage of every opportunity provided to him. During his fourth year of pharmacy school, he specifically signed up for a rotation with Allergan. He was selected because of his background in research. His preceptor was alumnus Kevin Kerr (PharmD '09). "I looked at the rotation as a six-week interview, and got to know them very well," says Ho.
As a consequence of the rotation and the relationships he built, Ho lined up a fellowship with Allergan immediately following graduation. His research will be on age related macular degeneration and finding a drug that halts the progression of the disease. "There's really no treatment on the market, so there's huge unmet need," says Ho. "I'll be working on creating a study, obtaining the data, analyzing it and publishing. It’s really going to be exciting."
When Ho walked at this year's commencement, he was the first in his entire family to receive a doctorate. In addition to his PharmD, Ho earned minors in hard work, drive and determination.