Dr. Ryan was an outstanding scientist who first discovered the production of estrogens in the ovary through the aromatization of androgens to estrogens. He was also an academic leader and a persistent and courageous advocate for legal abortion.
For twenty years, until 1993, Dr. Ryan was Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Just a few weeks after Dr. Ryan became the chair at Harvard in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in all states. In response, Dr. Ryan established the first outpatient abortion service within a teaching hospital in the United States and began a routine resident rotation for first and second trimester abortion training. Dr. Ryan went to Harvard Medical School at a time when it was still illegal in Massachusetts for physicians to educate their patients (married or not) about contraception and when septic abortion was the major cause of maternal mortality in the United States. These experiences informed his advocacy for abortion access and formalized abortion training. Many of the current academic leaders in reproductive health have been trained in his program.