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Monto and Carol Ho Pledge $2M to Establish Endowed Chair in GSPH

May 30, 2006 Issue

By Chris Morgenstern

Monto (left) and Carol Ho
World-renowed infectious disease specialist Monto Ho—professor emeritus and former chair in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH)—and his wife, Carol Ho, have pledged $2 million to GSPH to establish an endowed chair in infectious diseases and microbiology.

“The Hos’ generosity in establishing the Monto and Carol Ho Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology will afford GSPH the opportunity to support the work of a world-class scientist in the area of fighting infectious epidemics, something that will be truly transformational for the department,” said Roberta Ness, interim dean of GSPH and professor and chair of the school’s Department of Epidemiology.

For nearly 40 years, Monto Ho was a professor in GSPH. Carol Ho was the school’s librarian from 1968 to 1972.

Monto Ho’s accomplishments include pioneering investigations into interferons, proteins produced by cells in the body in response to an attack by a virus. In addition, Ho’s laboratory revealed the source of viral infections that were occurring after organ transplantation, especially cytomegalovirus and herpesvirus infections, which were major complications of early organ transplants. Ho’s research and leadership of GSPH’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology are credited with building the department’s international reputation. Indeed, research conducted within the department led to many groundbreaking accomplishments, including:

• Clinical trials on passive immunizations against poliovirus, which directly aided the development of the Salk polio vaccine;

• The discovery of encephalitis viruses and adeno-associated viruses;

• Research into the mechanisms of microbial infections at the cellular and molecular level; and

• Studies of the molecular, immunologic, epidemiologic, and biologic aspects of disease control and prevention.

The department also established the Pitt Men’s Study, one of the largest and longest-running cohort studies of HIV infection, which includes findings of the predictive value of viral load in the development of AIDS.

“Dr. Monto Ho is an esteemed leader in public health research whose scholarship and wisdom are an inspiration and a role model for all of us. We are deeply grateful that Monto and Carol Ho have chosen to perpetuate this legacy at our school,” said Bernard D. Goldstein, former dean of GSPH.

In 1997, Ho left GSPH to become the director in the Division of Clinical Research and a distinguished fellow at the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan. Because Taiwan’s overuse of antibiotics had led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Ho recognized the need to enhance the quality of training of infectious disease physicians. His efforts caused the appropriate use of antibiotics to become a national health priority. Since 2002, Taiwan’s antibiotic use has fallen 50 percent, and evidence is beginning to show that the drugs are working as well as they should.

Monto Ho has authored nearly 300 publications, including articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. His most recent book, Several Worlds: Reminiscences and Reflections of a Chinese-American Physician (World Scientific, 2005) is a memoir that follows Ho’s life from his childhood as the son of a Chinese diplomat through his research career in Pittsburgh and Taiwan. The book also details Ho’s experiences traveling the world and meeting the people who influenced his life’s work, including transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl of Pitt.

Ho will talk about Several Worlds during an event to be held at the University of Pittsburgh Book Center at 12:30 p.m. June 14. In September, a symposium will be held in honor of the Hos. The event will be coordinated through the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and will feature internationally renowned experts in the field of emerging infectious diseases. Symposium details are forthcoming.

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