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Dr. Thomas J. Ryan

December 19, 1928 ~ February 24, 2020 (age 91)


Thomas J. Ryan, MD passed peacefully and gracefully at the age of 91 years on February 24, 2020 at the Gosnell Hospice House in Scarborough, Maine.  He was surrounded by his family and the love and dignity that he so richly deserved.

Dr. Ryan was born in Manhasset, New York December 19, 1928 and resided in York Harbor, Maine at the time of his death. Before retiring to the Maine coast he raised his family in Newton, Massachusetts.

He was educated in the Jesuit tradition beginning at Xavier High School in New York City and graduating from the College of the Holy Cross ’50 majoring in philosophy and math.  He graduated from Georgetown Medical School in 1954 and began his medical training at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Dr. Ryan served as a Captain in the US Army Medical Corps from 1955-1957.  He then continued with pulmonary training with the Georgetown Medical Service in Washington DC and cardiology training at the Thorndike Laboratory of Boston City Hospital and Harvard Medical School. 

He was appointed Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in 1971. He was Chief, Section of Cardiology at Boston Medical Center from 1971-1994 after which time he continued to practice medicine, educate trainees and conduct significant cardiovascular research and influence health care policy as a Senior Consultant in Cardiology.  His remarkable career spanned 50 years.

Dr. Ryan remained a lifelong student and teacher.  In 1991, at age 63 he became a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University spending a sabbatical year studying clinical trial design and epidemiology. A true clinical scholar, Dr. Ryan represented the best of academic cardiology, combining extraordinary clinical acumen with a penchant for teaching.  He was always striving to answer important questions and never afraid to put conventional wisdom on trial.  He was a leader in the landmark Coronary Artery Surgery Study which would later prove to be a model for multicenter clinical trials.  True to his philosophy, Dr. Ryan remained an ardent supporter of the judicious and appropriate use of bypass surgery and coronary angioplasty.  These sentiments were ever manifest in his practice, his teachings and his leadership in formulating national practice guidelines with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC).

 Dr. Ryan was a leader in the American Heart Association at the local and national levels.  He was elected president in 1985 where he effectively served an unprecedented two consecutive terms.  He was the recipient of numerous awards including the AHA’s James B. Herrick, Paul Dudley White and Gold Heart Awards.  His dedication to scientific discovery, interpretation and the privilege of patient care is inextricably tied to his devotion to the mentorship of his fellows and trainees.  His superb clinical skills and reverence for clinical medicine are memorialized in the Thomas J. Ryan Chair of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Ryan was preceded in death by his parents Mark Joseph Ryan and Margaret Rooney Ryan of Manhasset, NY, his sisters Marcia Elizabeth Connolly of Fort Salonga, NY and Jane Ryan LeViness of Levittown, NY, his brother Mark Joseph Ryan of Woodbury, MN and his grandson Jake Ryan Feinman of Lynchburg Virginia.

Dr. Ryan is survived by his wife Nancy Cooney Ryan of Arlington, MA and York Harbor, Maine and his sister Mary Donahue of Point Lookout, NY.  He is also survived by his six loving children: Kathleen Ryan Steinberg (Bill) of Wayland, MA, Amy L. Ryan, MD (Dick Bachelder) of York, ME, Elizabeth Ryan Walter of York, ME, Thomas J. Ryan Jr. MD (Maribeth Hourihan MD) of Falmouth, ME, Paula J. Ryan (Paul Feinman) of Lynchburg, VA and Jennifer Ryan-Brown (Doug Brown) of Sherborn, MA.

He is survived by 15 grandchildren whom he adored and enchanted with magical cruises along the Maine coast aboard his beloved Fair Tide.  There are already 5 great grandchildren with speculation that more will arrive to build on his legacy.

Dr. Ryan’s greatest joy was time with his family.  He generously shared his life passions of travel, sailing, skiing and golf.  He loved looking out over the mouth of the York River and had a great fascination with weather and time.  He welcomed a good storm knowing the comfort of a snug harbor ahead.  He collected antique clocks and kept them all in working order with synchronized chimes.  He tended to his rose garden and appreciated a leaf free lawn with tight edging and a fresh double cut. He was an artist with a snow blower and never met a chore he didn’t like.

Although a world renowned cardiologist to so many, he was simply “Hi Ho” to his beloved grandchildren in whom he instilled a great love of family, tradition and adventure.  He captained countless whale watching excursions on the Fair Tide which all began with his self-authored nautical prayer and he kept the crew’s efforts, misdeeds and adventures neatly recorded with great ceremony and eloquence in the ships log.  Hi Ho taught them all how to live a good life while chasing pirates and bounty in the waters around Boon Island and Jeffrey's Ledge.

Dr. Ryan was a humble, charming, elegant and generous man who will be missed by so many.  May he have light winds, a fair tide and a following sea.

A  Celebration of Life service is planned for late spring.  In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name can be made to the American Heart Association ( or the Gosnell House in Scarborough, Maine



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Services to be held in the Spring

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