Top students in classes of 2018 and 2019 – Sam Yost and Tyler Gardner – honored with James R. Ryan Family Foundation scholarships

Tyler Gardner, Dr. Thomas Ryan, Debra Ryan
Tyler Gardner, a third-year student at WMed, center, is pictured with Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Debra Ryan.

As an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University, Tyler Gardner recalls how he shadowed doctors as they performed surgeries and how the experience solidified for him what was already a strong desire to pursue a career in medicine.

“They were really good role models,” said Gardner, a third-year medical student at WMed. “The job that they were doing, they were really able to make a big impact in people’s lives. Getting the chance to do that is something I’d love to do.”

Gardner, a Mattawan native and graduate of Mattawan High School, is well on his way to realizing his dream of becoming a doctor and, recently, he was honored with the James R. Ryan Family Foundation Scholarship.

The $2,000 award, which will go toward Gardner’s tuition, recognizes him as the top student in the medical school’s Class of 2019. Gardner was honored on Wednesday, November 28, 2017, during a special donor reception at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus.

The James R. Ryan Family Foundation Scholarship is given annually at WMed to the top-ranked rising third-year student at the conclusion of their second year, as well as the top-ranked rising fourth-year student at the conclusion of third-year clerkships. WMed students do not apply for the merit-based scholarship.

In addition to Gardner, fourth-year student Sam Yost also received the scholarship as the top student in the Class of 2018. In 2016, Yost was named the first-ever recipient of the Ryan Family Foundation scholarship.

The scholarship is the result of the generosity of Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Debra Ryan who, since 2012, have made significant financial contributions to the medical school through the James R. Ryan Family Foundation. Their donations have led to endowments for the annual scholarship, as well as for the Curtis M. Hanson M.D. and E. Dennis Lyne M.D. visiting professorships.

Sam Yost, Dr. Thomas Ryan, Debra Ryan
Sam Yost, a fourth-year student at WMed, center, is pictured with Dr. Thomas and Debra Ryan.

“He clearly is interested in promoting young doctors-to-be,” Yost said of Dr. Ryan. “It’s clearly something that’s important to him. It’s nice to see that, it speaks of someone who was happy with what they did and it’s always great seeing people in your future profession who are still happy after a long time. It bodes well for your future.”

The James R. Ryan Family Foundation draws its name from Dr. James R. Ryan, Dr. Thomas Ryan’s uncle and an alumnus of Western Michigan University who was an accomplished orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. James R. Ryan, who lived and practiced for a time in Kalamazoo prior to his death, taught at the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies, a predecessor to WMed, and dedicated his entire life to teaching and helping orthopaedic surgery residents.

Dr. Thomas Ryan and Debra Ryan are both Kalamazoo natives who attended Comstock High School before graduating from WMU. Like his uncle, Dr. Ryan is an orthopaedic surgeon and works in Kalamazoo. He completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the Southwest Michigan Area Health Education Center, also a predecessor of WMed.

In addition to his work as an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Ryan serves on the WMU Alumni Association Board of Directors and is a clinical assistant professor for orthopaedic surgery at the medical school. He also serves as councilor for the WMed Academic Honor Society.

The Ryans and other donors were honored during the November 28 donor reception at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. 

“This night is really about your generosity, your collaboration and your continued support,” Dr. Hal Jenson, WMed’s founding dean, told the crowd at the donor reception.

Gardner, who spoke at the donor reception, said he is thankful for the Ryans’ generosity and the recognition of the work he has put in as a student at WMed. Gardner said that after medical school, he is eyeing a residency in orthopaedic surgery or possibly internal medicine.

“I’ve worked hard and I think the education here at WMed has helped me,” Gardner said. “It’s a great education. I think our faculty really want us to succeed.”

Meanwhile, Yost, who will graduate from medical school with his classmates in May, plans to complete a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology and then pursue a fellowship for gynecologic oncology. Yost is a Saginaw native who grew up between there and Midland. He’s a graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and later earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

In discussing the success he’s had as a student at WMed, Yost said he believes his accomplishments stem from his ability to strike a proper life balance between school and his free time and social time.

“To be successful and stay sane, you have to try to eliminate the little time wasters, the things that don’t fill any aspect of the things you need to do well,” Yost said.

Yost, like Gardner, said he is thankful for the Ryans and their commitment to students and the medical school.

“I really appreciate it,” Yost said. “The money from the scholarship is nice but it’s really nice to have an opportunity to receive meaningful recognition and there’s no doubt it has helped me be more competitive than I expected in the (residency) application process.”