Alum's Commitment to Helping the Underserved Continues
Maureen Ryan packed a lifetime’s worth of living into 27 years.
Despite being diagnosed with Loeys-Dietz syndrome at birth, the 2017 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate never let the rare congenital heart condition define her. Rather, it spurred her to find ways to help those in need throughout her short life.
“Her passion was serving the less fortunate,” said her father, Kevin Ryan. “She was totally committed to it.”
Maureen began at 13, when she volunteered on the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home near her hometown of Framingham. An accomplished archer, in high school she started an archery program for people with special needs. While at Bridgewater State University, she helped children with special needs, was a camp counselor for children with life-threatening illnesses, and tutored and mentored homeless children.
She did all this and more, despite having the first of many heart surgeries at 14 to replace an enlarged aorta that typifies the condition. “She knew she had only so many years to live, so she wanted to make an impact every day,” said Kevin. “She refused to let it define her.”
As a student at the Institute, Maureen cherished her clinical experiences at Boston Health Care for the Homeless and the New England Center and Home for Veterans. “Even before she had acquired the initials of RN, she epitomized that which is best in the nursing profession— a strong clinical background and a heart that knew no bounds,” Sharon Morrison, a nurse at the veterans center, said at a tribute to Maureen this past May.
While at the IHP, Maureen learned that her condition was worsening and would require more surgical intervention. She postponed it, vowing to graduate and obtain her nursing license first. Achieving those goals, she underwent two surgeries and then eight months of rehabilitation to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse by landing a full-time position at Newton- Wellesley Hospital and defying the medical consensus that she would never be able to work as one.
Kevin Ryan and his wife, Colleen, who also is a nurse, worked with the IHP’s Development Office to create an endowed fund for student nurses after Maureen succumbed to the disease in 2020. “We’re doing this to support nursing students who share Maureen’s passion and commitment to community health nursing and serving underserved populations,” explained Kevin, “so her spirit will live on.”
Lauren Chesnard, BSN ’12, is running the 2021 Boston Marathon in October to support the Maureen Ryan Community Health ABSN Nursing Scholarship. Contributions are still being accepted.