MARYSVILLE – Please join us Friday, May 21, 2021, to celebrate long-time Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH) family physician Dr. John Ryan at a retirement reception. The reception will be come-and-go from 4 to 6 p.m. in the CMH South Plaza Conference Room, with a short program at 5:15 p.m. Cake and punch will be served, and face masks will be required on all CMH premises per federal healthcare mandate. Patients, friends, family, and the public are invited to wish him farewell.
Dr. Ryan retired at the end of April 2021 after serving 55 years in health care careers, and 37 years as a family physician – all 37 of which were spent caring for Marshall County patients through Community Memorial Healthcare. A native of Wichita, Dr. Ryan has been at CMH since joining Marysville Clinic in 1984 after completing his medical residency program at St. Joseph Medical Center (now Via Christi) in Wichita.
“CMH is grateful for Dr. Ryan’s continued service and commitment to our healthcare organization and to our community over the years,” said Curtis Hawkinson, CMH chief executive officer. “Dr. Ryan helped build and shape the foundation of our current healthcare services that will have a lasting impact for many years to come. He will be missed, but we wish him well in his retirement.”
Dr. Ryan’s long career in health care began following his graduation from Wichita West High School in 1965, when he went to work at St. Joseph Medical Center as a kitchen aide delivering patient trays and making meals. He was asked to train as an orderly (now known as a nurse’s aide, or patient care assistant), and then became a certified operating room technician (scrub tech). He continued to work as a scrub tech for about ten years while completing his bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University, and graduated in 1974 both from Wichita State and from St. Joseph School of Nursing, Wichita, as a registered nurse. After achieving his RN, Dr. Ryan worked in intensive care in the St. Joseph’s emergency department, going on to became a certified physician assistant (PA) in 1976. He then followed a professor from his PA courses, Dr. Bill Gardener, to his rural clinic in Harper, Kan. Dr. Ryan credits Dr. Gardener with being his most inspiring mentor – encouraging him to pursue medical school, and by believing Dr. Ryan had the potential to take his education even further to be able to help more people as a physician. “He was probably the smartest physician I’ve ever worked with,” Ryan said. One of the things Dr. Ryan enjoyed most about Dr. Gardener was his commitment to continuing to learn as medicine evolved, and then to teach others – something Dr. Ryan always asserted later in his own career.
“I was always science-oriented, even in grade school, and liked any kind of science, biology, etc. – one of my hobbies is now astronomy, and I even had a small telescope as a kid,” Dr. Ryan said. “My mother was chronically ill, and in and out of hospitals while I was a child, so I even got interested in medicine just in that way. I was always interested in what was going on with her care, at 10-12 years old, and I would just look stuff up.”
Even so, according to Dr. Ryan, when he first began college, he was mostly in it for the draft deferment from the Vietnam War and ended up with some grades on his transcript that he was not proud of. However, he said, once he got married and settled down and went back to school, that he was more serious and was committed to his studies. Because of this, when Dr. Ryan was placed on the alternate list for the local medical school originally, he decided to widen his scope for applications, and to pursue medicine to the ends of the earth.
“I didn’t want to wait another year and reapply – so once I had made the decision to apply, it wasn’t a question of if, it was just of – how far are you willing to go?” Dr. Ryan said of those days. So, he packed up himself, his wife Connie, and their young daughter, sold all of their belongings, flew to an island halfway around the world to attend medical school at St. George’s University School of Medicine on the Caribbean island of Grenada (near Trinidad and Barbados) in the West Indies. “It was an adventure!”, he said. “And it shows you just how far you’re willing to go. I lived through the revolution there, and that is how I really realized I wanted to become a doctor, and go to that next level in medicine, and work in a small town. I committed, went back to school, did my residency, and came to Marysville. And Marysville has been my entire vocation.”
Dr. Ryan completed his medical straining by graduating with a doctorate of medicine from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1981, and completed a family practice residency at the University of Kansas-Wichita St. Joseph’s Medical Center – back where it all began. Upon completing his residency in 1984, he and classmate Dr. Randall Brown joined Marysville Clinic with Dr. Laws and Dr. Argo.
When he first arrived to Marysville, he compared it to his former small-town life in Harper, Kan., where he had previously been a physician’s assistant. “When I first came to Marysville I thought it might be a little too big, as it even had a stoplight!”, Dr. Ryan said of his first impressions. “I wanted to come to a small town and do full family practice. Back then, family physicians were doing some general surgery, pinning hips, that kind of stuff, and I also knew I wanted to do OB (labor and delivery). So that was the kind of practice I wanted to have – a broad family practice,” he said.
Dr. Ryan and Dr. Brown both eventually left Marysville Clinic practice, and transferred their practice into Community Physicians Clinic, moving into those offices when it was built by CMH in 1989, practicing there ever since. In total, Dr. Ryan has been caring for CMH patients in Marysville for 37 years. “Over the years, of course, we’ve recruited a number of different physicians who have come and gone, until we’ve built the practice of physicians and nurse practitioners that we have today,” he said.
“The practice has changed a lot since I started, not only in what I do, but also in how a medical practice is run,” he said. “When I first started, every doctor took call every day, so we might have three doctors all on call in the emergency room at the same time. How we built our practice was to be available all the time – if someone went to the emergency room, and they wanted to see Dr. Ryan, I’d come do it. Even if it was in the middle of a birthday party, or something. Now we have built days into our schedules where we’re either on call, or days where we’re in the office seeing patients, and that allows for a better balance of family time for our medical staff,” he said.
Throughout time, Dr. Ryan has held a number of different positions on the CMH staff, including medical director for the CMH Level 4 trauma center program in the emergency room (the highest level trauma certification that can be earned for a rural, critical access hospital like CMH), served rotating terms as chief medical officer, and served on risk management and infection prevention teams. Dr. Ryan was also installed as County Health Officer by the Marshall County Board of Commissioners, a position which he has held for about 20 years, and helped County Health Nurse Sue Rhodes develop the Marshall County Health Department program. He also served as a physician reviewer for Kansas Foundation for Medical Care for 30 years, and on the medical review panel for Kansas Board of Healing Arts for 15 years, doing medical reviews and investigations into complaints against other physicians. He has been the medical director for Waterville Ambulance for about 20 years, and is now also medical director for Marysville Ambulance service since 2021. He has also coupled his life-long journey of learning with teaching: serving as a volunteer faculty member and rural preceptor through both University of Kansas School of Medicine and Wichita State University Physician Assistant program.
Dr. Ryan said his interests in medicine over the years have shifted, and he realized he had a great interest in geriatric care. So he took courses and became board certified in geriatrics, and then later in hospice and palliative medicine, as well. Following those certifications, he began serving (and still serves as) medical director of both Aseracare Hospice, Lincoln, Neb., and Meadowlark Hospice, Clay Center.
While Dr. Ryan has received many accolades over the years, the accolade he’s proudest of would be the Henry Riedereer Award for Outstanding Generalist from the University of Kansas-Wichita, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, which he was awarded in 1984 during residency. “This award was from the director of my residency,” Dr. Ryan said. “He was an older man who had practiced as a general physician for many, many years, and I really respected him as someone who was dedicated to medicine, and, even though he was older, that he was still learning himself. He was constantly reading, reviewing, learning medicine, as things changed,” he said. “Many physicians can develop an attitude of, getting their training and that’s all they’ll need – saying, ‘once you learn to plumb, you know to plumb’, so to speak. But medicine is something you have to continually study and learn every day. It is well documented that over a decade, half the knowledge that you have of medicine you’ll come to learn is wrong, and so you have to change,” Dr. Ryan said. “So to receive an award from Dr. Riedereer, who was like that – I felt very privileged. I also later received an award as outstanding preceptor in 2008, and that was very meaningful to me, as well. I’ve had a lot of students, and enjoy teaching. And I’ve recently looked this up – ‘doctor’ actually means ‘teacher’ in Latin.”
“You continue to have to learn, and I probably will for the rest of my life. Even though I’m retiring from my practice, I have so much interest in medicine that I intend to continue to learn the rest of my life.”
In addition to medicine, learning, and teaching, Dr. Ryan has many hobbies. His favorites are astronomy, navigation, and sailing. Dr. Ryan began sailing in high school with his best friend, and continues still with friend Mike Stech, who is the nurse anesthetist at CMH. Dr. Ryan likes to take his sailboat out on Lake Milford, and also enjoys bare-boat chartering in the Caribbean, in which you charter, provision, and captain that boat yourselves, sailing from island to island. He says it’s a good cross between his interests in astronomy and celestial navigation to be out on the open water. He also enjoys amateur radioing, camping with his wife Jill, RVing, and traveling, which is how he intends to spend his days soon after retirement.
Dr. Ryan is married to wife Jill Ryan, who is a nurse and currently works with Pony Express Infant and Toddler Services in Marysville as a Family Service Coordinator/Early Interventionist. He has six children – five from his marriage to Connie, and one with his wife Jill. They are daughter Erin (Ryan), Chicago, Ill., daughter Shannon (Tai Amri), Lawrence, son David, Manhattan, daughter Tammy (Charlie), Seattle, Wash., and son Jeff (Liza), San Diego, Calif. Together with Jill, they have daughter Danielle (Brandon), Ft. Riley. The Ryans have 9 grandchildren with one more on the way, and one great-granddaughter.
Dr. Ryan said what he’ll miss most about his time at CMH is seeing patients. “That’s what I’ve done, you know? Sit down and talk with the patient, and of course in a rural community, these patients become part of your family. So over the years, you end up helping them through a number of crises or momentous occasions, and so there’s that long term relationship developed,” he said. “Not being able to see those patient and continue those relationships on a regular basis is what I’ll miss the most.”
For those unable to attend the reception Friday, cards or letters may be addressed to Community Memorial Healthcare, Attn: Dr. John Ryan, 708 N. 18th Street, Marysville, KS 66508.