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The Can-Do Attitude of Dan Do '13

Greg Kwasnik
Little more than a month after he graduated from Holderness School in the spring of 2013, Daniel Do began to feel a nagging pain in his leg. Daniel, who had plans to try out for the Bowdoin College basketball team that fall, first thought it was a muscle pull. Soon after arriving at Bowdoin, however, the pain had become so debilitating that he couldn’t walk.
Daniel, a beneficiary of the Richard R. Hall (P ’61 PT) Scholarship Fund while at Holderness, would soon receive devastating news. A visit to a doctor and a subsequent x-ray revealed a shadow on his femur; a follow-up MRI clearly showed a tumor. What followed was a nerve-wracking few weeks during which Daniel’s doctors tried to nail down a diagnosis. At first, his doctors thought he had a sarcoma, or an aggressive form of leukemia. “I remember going on this whole odyssey,” Daniel remembers. “It was only two or three weeks, but for a cancer patient every day is horrible.”
 
Finally, on October 4, 2013, doctors diagnosed Daniel with lymphoma, a serious but treatable cancer that required three months of chemotherapy followed by a month of radiation treatments. It was a tough time for Daniel, who had to leave Bowdoin to receive treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Luckily, though, he wasn’t alone. Soon after learning of Daniel’s diagnosis, the Holderness community rushed into action; students sent him a care package filled with letters, teachers and staff reached out to him, and the school quickly launched a fundraising drive to help offset the cost of his medical care and related expenses. It was exactly the kind of support Daniel needed at the time. “All of my friends and mentors were still at Holderness,” Daniels says. “I was just really grateful that even though I had left the school, the teachers, staff, and my good friends still thought of me, cared about me, and reached out to me.”
 
Today, Daniel is cancer-free and thriving. He eventually graduated from Bowdoin College in 2018 and spent two years working in a zebrafish cancer lab at Mass General Hospital. Inspired by the world-class treatment he received as a patient at Dana Farber, Daniel resolved to pursue medicine; this fall, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he enrolled as a student at Harvard Medical School. His ultimate goal is to become a hematologist. “I would love to treat my own cancer,” Daniel says. “My dream is to come back to Dana Farber as an oncologist.”
 
Having survived cancer and been admitted to one of the most competitive medical schools in the country, Daniel knows just how fortunate he is. A first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Vietnam in the 1980s, Daniel says he never would have had the resources to pay for his Holderness education without the Richard R. Hall (P ’61 PT) Scholarship Fund. Without that scholarship and the opportunity it afforded, his life may have traveled along a very different path. “Most of my peers in medical school are well off. You don’t see a lot of students like myself – first generation, low income – in medicine,” Daniel says. “The whole idea is, how do we get more students of my background into medicine?” For Daniel, the answer is clear: educational opportunity. Thanks to his Holderness scholarship, he enjoyed an excellent high school education that taught him how to succeed in the classroom and in life. Daniel says it was at Holderness where he first learned to ask questions in class, go to office hours, and balance the competing demands of schoolwork, athletics, and community. “A Holderness value that I carry with me today is balance – being more than just a student, but also being an athlete, being a community member, and being a friend,” Daniel says. “I guess to be a more complete human being – that’s really important.”
 
Talking to Daniel, it’s clear that he’s passionate about expanding educational access to deserving students like him. It’s an idea he discussed during his entrance interview to Harvard Medical School, and it’s an idea he hopes more people with means will embrace. By making a donation to an institution like Holderness, Daniel says, a donor can make a huge difference in a student’s life.
 
“By giving money to Holderness and potentially creating a scholarship for students like myself, you’re giving them an opportunity to make something out of themselves,” Daniel says. “When hard work meets opportunity, something can happen, which is why I’m here today. And that opportunity starts with education.”
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