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Honorary Degree Citation - David Patrick Ryan, M.D. '88

Friday, May 25, 2018
David Patrick Ryan, M.D. '88
Doctor of Science

David Patrick Ryan, M.D. '88

Unrelenting warrior in the war against cancer. Powerful advocate for patient-centered care. Exemplary son of Holy Cross.

David Ryan, you are a renowned medical oncologist who has been fully engaged for two decades “lifting the burden of human illness.”  You have been a towering presence in the research and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. Your tireless efforts to seek more than cures have changed the way cancer patients are treated. Caring for the whole person has been the cornerstone of your career.

As chief of hematology and oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital since 2012, you specialize in treating gastrointestinal cancers of the stomach, pancreas and colon. You are the clinical director of the Mass General Cancer Center and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Your clinical research is focused on the design and implementation of Phases I and II trials in gastrointestinal malignancies.

You shoulder a tremendously demanding workload that can be, by day, uplifting, confounding or terribly sad. A compassionate and skilled physician, you have hope for your patients, but not necessarily for a cure. You help patients facing a terminal illness to live fuller and longer lives by integrating oncology and palliative care, intended to relieve physical and emotional suffering. You do everything in your power to extend a high quality of life for as long as possible.

Spurred by the many questions asked by patients and friends, and Mass General’s novel integrated approach to providing cancer treatment and palliative care in tandem, you co-authored a book of advice in 2017. Living with Cancer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Diagnosis, has been well-received. One reviewer wrote, “This essential guide serves as a medical GPS.”

You attribute your success in medicine in large part to your Holy Cross education – the rigorous curriculum, diverse liberal arts offerings and Jesuit mission helped to form you into the doctor you are today. Your father, a great fan of the Jesuits, asked you to choose your college from among four Jesuit schools. Fortunately, you made the right decision and followed your older siblings, John and Sheila, up Linden Lane. Your love of reading and facility with the sciences led you to major in English, while taking the science courses you would need for medical school.

You left the Hill with your degree and a classmate you call the “miracle in your life,” your wife, Carol Markey. Your families have created a Crusader dynasty through a litany of siblings and in-laws to which another Ryan was added in 2016, Christopher, the oldest of your four children. You earned your medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1992. Following a residency at NY Presbyterian/Columbia University, you were awarded a fellowship in hematology and oncology in the MGH Cancer Center. In 1998, you joined the medical staff at Mass General.

You are consistently recognized as a top doctor in the state and national rankings that appear in Boston Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and other publications.

You are on the editorial board of Clinical Cancer Research and The Oncologist. You have published more than 100 articles in peer review journals, reviews, book chapters and editorials. Your leadership and service include clinical task forces for the National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network.

As a man for others in the best Jesuit tradition, you provide a model for our students to pursue lives of purpose and service that leverage their talents. You also demonstrate the power and reach of a liberal arts education.

That all may know of our esteem for you and our support for the vital work you do as a compassionate healer, brilliant researcher and source of honesty and hope for patients in desperate need, the College of the Holy Cross confers upon you this day the degree, Doctor of Science, honoris causa.