Photography by Yuvie Styles.
Neighborhood resident Dr. Amy Ho has a simple medical philosophy: No judgment.
For example, there’s the neo-Nazi who recently came to Ho for help.
“It’s not my job or my role to have to judge them, which is actually extremely relieving of a huge burden. My role is to come and help relieve suffering,” she says.
“They come to you and, in the moment, they’re like, I have pain in my chest, whatever, and you get to just say, ‘Great, let me explore that’ without necessarily having to explore what you did in prison or where that tattoo is from.”
That’s one of the philosophies Ho talks about in her new picture book “Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero?” It’s a book for children, sure, but it’s also a book for medical professionals, Ho says.
For example, consider that the medical text- books mentioned throughout her book are real, causing many doctors to flash back to their days in the library studying for their degrees.
The book, available on Amazon, depicts a young girl who thinks her mother is a superhero. Mommy saves lives and is out late at night. She also has a special cape and tools.
Written for young children who may struggle to understand their parents’ jobs, Ho says she wants her book to be a conversation starter about female empowerment, especially in the medical field.
“I have three nieces under the age of five. Even as they were like, ‘Hey, what do you do for work?’ and they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to be a doctor, too,’ it’s really hard to explain to them what it is that medicine is,” Ho says.
“So that was one part of making it a children’s book. The bigger message of that for me is really about women empowerment and that women can do and actually do everything.”
Dr. Amy Ho. Photography by Yuvie Styles.
Ho believes that to provide the best care, medical professionals need to learn a patient’s story. During her residency at the University of Chicago, she cared for victims of gang violence. The stories she heard challenged her perception of gangs, and she came to view those patients with compassion and understanding.
“I kind of get it: If you’re not in a gang, and you live in that area, you have no protection. You’re just like a little bit of a sitting duck,” she says.
“It struck me that, one, these are all people who ended up where they are not because they made any bad decisions. I felt like it was survival; anyone else would, too. Two, I realized no one would tell (me) their story unless you can treat them without judgment.”
Ho says she treated these patients without judgment by encouraging them to take preventative measures, such as wearing a seatbelt when they were engaged in gang-related activities. Her patients often found this simple advice endearing, she says, and it encouraged them to open up to her.
Ho has become an outspoken supporter of reforming the U.S. medical system, penning a recent Los Angeles Times column on the topic. She believes the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the U. S. to “dip its toes” into a new form of healthcare, stating that the virus response affirmed that every citizen is deserving of quality healthcare.
“We should heavily invest in creating a sustainable permanent model of affordable healthcare for all,” she says in the column.
“Rather than wait for an-other surge of the coronavirus or some other critical tipping point to clumsily nudge us toward this inevitable outcome, we should use COVIDcare as a building block to craft a new vision of healthcare for America.”
For many medical professionals, Ho says, the pandemic adds more to their job description, making a book such as hers more relevant. Their fears include their struggles with homeschooling children and worrying about how their exposure to the virus may impact their family.
“So that was, I think, the ultimate urgency of why I actually wrote the book and put it out for publication during the whole COVID shutdown,” Ho says.
Ho’s advice for those of us looking to support neighborhood medical professionals is simple.
“The only thing more infectious than COVID is negativity,” she says. “So even though we’re all physically separated, be kind to one another and your neighbors, especially since we’re your neighbors, too.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.