Thanks to community lifelines on and off campus, David Ho ’19 is overcoming a major illness to pursue his passions for medicine and music.

Unexpected News

When David Ho ’19 was completing his second year as a nursing major at Elms College, he received news that would bring anyone in his shoes to a screeching halt: He found out he had cancer.

Photo of nursing major and music minor David Ho“I was diagnosed with leukemia while I was here at Elms, my sophomore year,” the Springfield, MA, native said. “It was definitely a tough year. But the support of my professors and family at home helped me get through it, and I stayed in the program.”

Choosing a career in nursing reflects a bold move on David’s part, since his own condition makes him more susceptible to illnesses. However, thanks to his support network on and off campus, he found the motivation to continue advocating for patients, even if it meant putting his own wellbeing on the line.

Risking it All

“I’ve had so many doctors tell me, ‘Nursing school isn’t the best combination for someone with cancer,’ ” he said. “Just because of the stress and being constantly exposed to sick people. But I take the risk, and I’m able to manage it really well. It’s overwhelming, but I’m just trying to find things that keep me at peace.”

Along with his team of doctors, David’s classmates and faculty mentors keep his momentum up. When it comes to his nursing major, he says that his cohort serves as an academic lifeline.

“I wouldn’t be able to survive without my study group at all,” he said with a laugh. “I need them to function.”

'I'm just trying to find things that keep me at peace.'

“One of the qualities I value most in David is his ability to perceive other people’s feelings, while trying to be present for them in the best way possible,” said Karen Braccialarghe, RN, MSN, assistant clinical instructor in the School of Nursing. “His life experiences have helped shape him into a unique, compassionate individual who is going to be an incredible nurse.”

Finding a Creative Outlet

When he isn’t busy with clinical rotations, David can be found pursuing another passion close to his heart: music. An avid singer and pianist, David set up independent study sessions with Christopher Bakriges, Ph.D., lecturer in music at Elms, in order to complete a music minor. This collaboration emphasized for David just how much strength you can draw from the Elms community.

“Dr. Bakriges knows about my cancer, and how much work it can be and everything,” David said. “I’ve already got my credits for my music minor, but it feels like I’ve barely taken any classes for piano because it’s always so relaxing. He’s taught me to take everything day by day.”

'There is no end to the joy David brings to life and art.' - Christopher Bakriges, Ph.D.

“David may be the most gifted student I’ve ever taught,” Bakriges said. “There is no end to the joy he brings to life and art. It’s one thing to be as talented as he is, but his real gifts come from his level of attention that he devotes to any topic we’re engaged in.”

Moving Forward

As he nears graduation in spring 2019, David is planning on springboarding his current role at Baystate Medical Center into a full-time position. He currently works the overnight shift as the hospital’s weekend lead phlebotomist, drawing blood from patients for medical tests. If his track record at Elms is any indication, he will have no problem blending his technical skills as a nurse with his poise as a musician.

“I used to panic so much,” he said. “But I think with nursing, they throw so much at you that you end up learning to be very calm. That comes in handy when you’re managing patients who are in distress.”

When individual determination meets a close-knit campus community, anything is possible. Contact us or schedule a campus visit to experience first hand the uplifting campus vibe that helped David achieve his goals.