By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Dr. Alana Ryan, DO from Hope Orthopedics of Oregon, who also is the team doctor for Willamette University Athletics, has been chosen as the Best Doctor in the Willamette Valley for 2022. Ryan is a dual board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Primary Care Sports Medicine. She was the runner-up for Best Doctor in the Willamette Valley in 2021. She has been Willamette's team doctor since 2019.
Ryan developed her desire to work in sports medicine while attending college. She has turned her interests into a successful career.
"I studied public health in college and became passionate about wanting to make communities healthier," Ryan said. "Medicine felt like the best fit for me to do just that. With regard to sports medicine, my experiences as a collegiate gymnast (2005-09) gave me personal experiences with injuries, performance anxiety, success, and retirement."
Ryan was born and raised in Salem, where she graduated from Sprague High School. She is now back in her hometown. Although she moved away to attend college, she always hoped to return to the Pacific Northwest.
In 2009, she earned a bachelor's degree in Health Sciences with a minor in Chemistry from California State University, Fullerton, where she also competed as an NCAA Division I gymnast.
While in college, Ryan was seen by a physician whose overall approach to working with student-athletes impressed her a lot. He had a huge impact on her decision to become a doctor in sports medicine.
"One of the physicians I met along the way served as our team's primary care sports medicine physician," Ryan recalled. "He had an amazing approach to treating me as not only an athlete, but also a person beyond the athlete. I appreciated his care throughout the years, and it ultimately inspired me to pursue a primary care sports medicine career."
She attended osteopathic medical school at Western University of Health Sciences in Lebanon, Oregon, where she served as a teaching fellow for her peers. After completing a sports medicine fellowship at Wake Forest University (N.C.), she joined Hope Orthopedics in October of 2019. "With a little luck on timing, Hope was looking to expand their services and add a non-operative sports physician," Ryan commented. "Hope Orthopedics of Oregon is a very well-established practice with great physicians and a great reputation. I am thrilled to be back in Salem."
Ryan explained that "As the non-operative (not a surgeon) provider at Hope, my responsibility is to evaluate patients with injuries or musculoskeletal complaints, and develop a diagnosis and management plan." She noted that some of the non-operative solutions include a home exercise plan, referral to physical therapy, bracing or casting, and injection therapies.
"Although I am a non-operative physician, I can also serve as the first touch point for evaluation of acute injuries and refer on to one of our surgeons if needed ... or if non-operative treatments aren't working like we had hoped."
With Hope Orthopedics, Ryan is back in Salem and providing citizens with medical help, just as she dreamed in college. And the people in the Mid-Willamette Valley have recognized her success by choosing her as the Best Doctor for 2022.
"I am humbled and thrilled to have been voted Best Doctor in the Willamette Valley," Ryan said. "I became a physician to serve my community and further specialized in sports medicine to encourage and connect communities to movement and sport. Given that the community votes on this award, it feels extra special knowing I am making a difference."
Ryan gave lots of credit to her colleagues at Hope Orthopedics of Oregon.
"Hope is a well-oiled machine filled with wonderful people," Ryan said. "While I was voted Best Doctor I couldn't do my job without the team I have behind me. Everyone from the front office staff, the business office, medical assistants, imaging team, cast/brace team, and other providers help me do my job well every day."
"Hope Orthopedics has been providing outstanding orthopedic health care and concussion management for our student-athletes for several years now," said Ken Smith, MS, ATC, Willamette assistant athletics director for sports medicine and head athletic trainer. "In addition to their proximity and timely appointments, the sports medicine orthopedic surgeons, and several specialists who have seen and treated our athletes, Dr. Ryan provides a non-surgical perspective as well as high-level expertise in supervising our concussion protocol. During my career, I have worked with many outstanding sports medicine primary care team physicians, and Dr. Ryan is without question on par with them. Her professionalism, expertise, and continued pursuit of knowledge are second to none."
While working through the sports medicine fellowship at Wake Forest, Ryan served as a team physician for Wake Forest Athletics and for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her experiences working with athletic teams and performing artists helped train her well for the situations she faces in sports medicine at Hope Orthopedics.
"As a primary care sports medicine specialist, I received training in on-field assessments, in clinic/training room assessments, and return-to-play decision-making," Ryan noted. "These are integral in helping athletes get back in the game and keeping them safe." In addition, "I have considerable training in concussion evaluation, diagnosis, and management," she continued.
"I have training in primary care and medical issues as they relate to sport and assist with the management of chronic illness or diseases in athletes, allowing them to safely participate and play. I love working with athletes of all ages and experience levels," Ryan concluded.
Her overall level of experience and her areas of skill and knowledge are a great match for Willamette's student-athletes. Her integrated approach to sports-related injuries and well as other incapacitating events and illnesses, makes her an outstanding choice for working with Bearcat student-athletes as they battle to return to action.
"The student-athletes at Willamette are incredible," Ryan said. "I enjoy working with athletes that are motivated on and off the field to be at their best. Collaborating and joining the Willamette Athletics community has been equally gratifying, as we all have the same goal to keep the athletes safe as they play the sport they love."