Vincent Ho, a gastroenterologist at Western’s School of Medicine, is trying to save young people from preventable gut issues through a prolific one-man education campaign. Ho produces online videos and blog posts, does radio segments and has written a parenting book on how to strengthen the gut health of young children. His book, The Healthy Baby Gut Guide came out in September 2020 in Australia and New Zealand, with plans for global distribution in late 2021.
“I am passionate about good gut health early in life, the first 1,000 days is crucial,” explains Ho. “For a long time we thought allergenic foods should be introduced at about three years’ old, once the child has a more mature immune system. But now we are finding that introducing these foods within the first 12 months can reduce the chance of the child developing allergies later on.”
Calling himself the ‘Gut Dr’, Ho has created an educational portal to discuss all things gastrointestinal-related that has had more than 6 million views to date. “He has a way of distilling technical information in a way that people really relate to,” says Anna Evangeli, deputy editor of health and medicine at The Conversation, a researcher-led website with almost 19 million monthly readers, on which Ho has co-produced about 40 articles on gut health.
Need to know
- Ho’s gastrointestinal educational portal has had more than 6 million views.
- His 2020 book seeks to disseminate new perceptions of children’s gut health.
- The first 1,000 days of a child’s life is crucial for introducing allergenic foods.
When Ho established the Translational Gastroenterology Laboratory at Western, in 2011, he was much more of a typical clinician-scientist. He saw patients. He taught classes. He studied colorectal cancer and gut motility disorders.
“But he goes above and beyond what I think any other GI doctor would do,” says Sandra Solinas, one of Ho’s patients and a leader of Gastroparesis Australia, a support and advocacy group that Ho works with for people with stomach emptying problems.
Then, in December 2015, Ho had an experience that would change his career. His daughter Olivia, then just six months old, took her first bite of egg and went into severe anaphylactic shock. “I was the most scared I’ve ever been,” recalls Ho.
After Olivia recovered, he dedicated himself to learning more about the causes of allergies in young children. Ho soon adapted his research lab to focus more on the role that intestinal microbes play in shaping the immune system broadly. He also set out to counter the misinformation that, as he discovered, was rife.The birth of his second child, Brandon, then inspired Ho to write more about science-informed strategies for preventing and managing allergies in children, which culminated in his book.
Meet the Academic | Dr Vincent Ho
Dr Vincent Ho completed his undergraduate degree in Medicine at the University of NSW (2002) and gained fellowship with the Royal Australian College of Physicians in 2011. He work as a gastroenterologist at Campbelltown Hospital with subspecialisation in gastrointestinal motility. Vincent leads a Translational Gastroenterology Research program at the School of Medicine focusing on basic science and clinical research in the gut. He has a strong passion in education of the science of the gut to health discipline audiences as well as the general public. Vincent is a gastroenterology content expert and block coordinator for the School of Medicine, has written extensively for The Conversation (over 7 million views) and has been interviewed on radio, television and newspapers.
© Vincent Ho; Allen & Unwin © Phuong Duong/unsplash
Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.