When Kevin Huoh is asked how he manages to pull off a 4.0 grade point average and still have time to master various musical instruments, play a mean game of pick-up basketball and participate in community activities, he gladly gives away his secret.
“I tell them, ‘There’s nothing that separates me from you, except I may be more willing to put in the time,’ ” said Huoh, USC’s 2003 valedictorian.
Huoh, who plans on going to medical school, will graduate May 16 with a bachelor of science degree in psychobiology and a minor in art history.
He participated in the baccalaureate/M.D. program at USC, earning academic honors, including the coveted Trustee Scholarship, and membership into honor societies such as Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board.
Huoh started out as a biology major, but decided he wanted to diversify and learn more about how the human mind works. He also explored art history, learning about 19th-century British art, French impressionism and Renaissance painting.
“I pride myself on working hard and don’t take anything for granted,” the 22-year-old said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve worked hard. It’s just an inner motivation to do the best I can, not to have any regrets at the end of the day. I’ve been lucky enough to have the ability to do well if I put the effort in.”
As part of his USC experience, Huoh was an organic chemistry instructor in the College of Letters, Arts & Science’s Supplemental Instruction Program and for The Princeton Review’s Medical College Admission Test.
As an assistant in the pediatric otolaryngology clinic of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, he worked with a doctor he’d had as a child. He also volunteered in the department of emergency medicine at LAC+USC Medical Center.
In addition, Huoh played violin in the USC Community Orchestra and is an accomplished pianist.
But Huoh’s entrance into the world was not an easy one. He was born with cystic hygroma, a rare condition that caused a large, benign tumor to grow in his lymphatic system.
“In my case, it was pretty severe because it blocked my airways so I couldn’t breathe very well, if at all, when I was born,” the Los Angeles native said.
Huoh’s parents brought him to USC doctors, who cared for him over the next eight years. He had more than 90 surgeries, including a tracheostomy. Most of the tumor was removed, but Huoh’s indebtedness to his doctors remained.
“They saved my life,” he said. “Now my choice of profession might allow me to save another life.”
Peter Shugarman, a USC associate biology professor who has known Huoh since he was a freshman, said the way his student handled his medical experiences is a measure of his character.
“He carries with him the evidence of it,” Shugarman said. “He’s not bothered to have any kind of plastic surgery to hide any of the scars. He’s saying, ‘I am who I am.’ He’s not putting on a show for anybody.”
Huoh will do what it takes to reach his goal of becoming a doctor, Shugarman added.
“He’s not doing it for fame and fortune. He’s doing it in order to repay. I wish more people would do it that way,” the professor said.
William McClure, director of the USC psychobiology program, said Huoh was “always on top of everything.”
“He was one of the best organized students with whom I have ever worked,” McClure said.
Huoh said he had many advisers with whom he could talk to during his academic career at USC.
“I can’t say enough about USC,” he said.
“I just love everything the university stands for. You’re able to explore a very diverse area of study at USC and can basically do whatever you want.
“Also, I grew up under the care of USC doctors, so USC has always been there in my life. If I can help one child the way doctors have helped me, their work will not have been in vain.”
Contact Usha Sutliff at (213) 740-0252.