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IHL names SGSHS student affairs head top diversity educator

Published on Monday, February 25, 2019

By: Karen Bascom

Dr. Michael Ryan, professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, received as the 2019 Diversity Educator of the Year from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Ryan received the overall honor among nine other nominees from IHL member campuses in a celebration of Black History Month at the February 21 board meeting.

Dr. Mike Ryan holding his award posing with Dr. Joey Granger, UMMC dean of the School for Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences; Dr. Steven Cunningham, IHL board of trustees; Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor; Dr. Juanyce Taylor, UMMC chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Congratulating Ryan on his accomplishment are, from left, Dr. Joey Granger, UMMC dean of the School for Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences; Dr. Steven Cunningham, chair of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning Diversity Committee; Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs; and Dr. Juanyce Taylor, UMMC chief diversity and inclusion officer.

“It is a great honor to receive this prestigious award,” he said. “It is truly the highest compliment that I could receive in my career.

“I am thankful to have a platform where I can make a small amount of progress, and I am humbled to be here with all of the finalists, who are equally worthy of this honor,” Ryan said.

Ryan received his award for his efforts to promote diversity in the biomedical sciences, which span the educational spectrum from grade school to junior faculty.

“When we speak about diversity and inclusion at UMMC, we are speaking about excellence, quality and that we are better and stronger when we have diverse voices at the table,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs. “Dr. Ryan is a remarkable role model for young scientists and a shining example of excellence.”

Larry Sparks, interim chancellor of the University of Mississippi, said that when he notified Woodward that Ryan would receive the award, “he had never seen anyone more excited for someone else.”

Dr. Mike Ryan behind podium speaking.
Ryan gives remarks at the IHL board meeting.

Largely through Ryan’s leadership as associate dean for student affairs, the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences and its outreach programs are more diverse and inclusive than ever before. The number of Ph.D. students from minority groups has doubled. In addition, the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program has increased its minority enrollment from 12 to 35 percent.

He is principal investigator of the Mississippi Diversity in Hypertension and Cardiorenal Researchers program, a National Institutes of Health award that has supported more the 40 college students from underrepresented minorities.

Ryan also organizes outreach programs such as Discovery U and Physiology Understanding Week, which introduce K-12 students in Jackson-area schools to the biomedical sciences.

On a national level, Ryan serves on NIH and American Physiological Society committees that seek to enhance diversity in the biomedical sciences.

As a scientist, Ryan studies the mechanisms of hypertension in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and in preeclampsia. His worked is funded by the NIH and Veterans Affairs. Ryan’s trainees have been approximately 75 percent women and include several minority students, many of whom have received their own extramural funding and advanced to faculty positions.

Ryan joined the UMMC faculty in 2004, following his doctoral studies at the University of Buffalo and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Iowa.

This isn’t the only time this year that Ryan has been recognized for his commitment to advancing an inclusive environment in science. In April, he will receive the APS’s A. Clifford Barger Underrepresented Minority Mentorship Award at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting. In January, UMMC’s Office of Diversity of Inclusion presented Ryan the Beacon Award at the Pillars ceremony.

At the IHL ceremony, Ryan thanked other UMMC leaders who have promoted diversity, inclusion and mentorship.

“It is a genuine privilege to work with colleagues who value mentorship and diversity,” Ryan said.