Dr. Ryan's Biography
My parents later divorced, and my father moved all 5 of us children to the States. First, we lived in Washington DC, where I attended the French school for one year, and then soon enrolled in the local parochial school. My childhood included ballet lessons, camping trips, art projects, and lots of neighborhood adventures with my best friend Lucia.
In high school, our family moved to Boston after my father changed jobs. I spent 3 years at Brookline High School, where I was exposed to a broad palette of academic topics. I knew that I loved science, so my father recommended I study Latin (the root of many scientific words). However, I was also fascinated by Asian philosophy and art, so I started studying Mandarin. I studied both for 3 years.
I applied to college knowing that I wanted not only a strong scientific program, but also the opportunity to continue my Mandarin studies. Bridging both these diverse interests lead me to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I majored in Microbiology. My work-study job later evolved into a research opportunity that developed into my Honors thesis. At the same time, I was also pursuing a minor in Asian Studies, and the opportunity came to be a member of the first group of ten American exchange students to attend Beijing Normal University (teaching university). This was truly my dream come true, going to mainland China, as the country was slowly allowing westerners to visit. I spent the summer in Taiwan to further improve my language skills, and then lived in Beijing at the University for one school year. I jumped on every travel opportunity that presented itself, and had some amazing experiences exploring parts of China where no foreigners had been to in many decades. My language skills truly allowed me to have personal contact with the local Chinese which would otherwise not have been possible. As the cliché goes, I learned more about myself in China than I did about the Chinese themselves, but this is the beauty of travel and stepping outside of ones cultural comfort zone. I turned 21 years old in China.
Once I returned to the States, I matriculated and decided that I needed to spend some time with my French family. I worked in Paris for a year, and traveled extensively throughout Europe. I then returned to the States and lived in Palo Alto, doing research with a biotech startup company. During this time I was deciding what my next career steps would be. Should I pursue medicine and apply for an MD, or should I pursue research and apply for a PhD? Pursuing an MD was more in line with my overall goals, and two years later I was bound for medical school at UC Davis.
I knew that I wanted to pursue womens health care. I also was fascinated with the growing field of fertility treatment because it was a triumvirate of scientific, ethical and surgical frontiers, all of which resonated for me. When I applied for residency, my mentor encouraged me to consider a new program at UCSF, which was a combination of residency and Reproductive Endocrinology (REI) fellowship. While this was a very big commitment to seven years of training, I knew after interviewing that this was a perfect combination for me. Fortunately, I was accepted, and thus embarked on a long career at UCSF.
I completed my residence, fellowship, and was on faculty at UCSF for a few years. During this time, I was very active in basic science research investigating the role of endometriosis and fertility. In 2000, I left UCSF and joined my 4 current partners at PFC. We now have created a most unique fertility center, with a state of the art laboratory, dedicated and devoted staff, acupuncture center, research center, and a special combination of personal care with the benefit of input from the five MDs who are seasoned fertility providers.
While I was a resident at UCSF I met my husband, who himself was an Internal Medicine resident. After his Chief Residency year, he did a fellowship in Gastroenterology. Fortunately we were both able to complete all of our training while staying in San Francisco, the city we call home. We have three wonderful daughters who love adventure, travel, playing sports and while none of them will become doctors like their parents, all three have a giving heart and are involved in careers and activities of giving back to their communities.
When not at work, I enjoy time with my family, as well as good food and wine, foreign films, reading, photography, yoga, and just quiet times.
I am privileged to be in a profession where I touch so many peoples lives and dreams. Every birth announcement is a reminder of this privilege, and every failed treatment cycle is a new commitment to do my best.
-Isabelle Ryan, M.D.
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