B.C. has one physician who is fully subspecialized providing services in male infertility and sexual medicine practices, and he practices right here at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
Dr. Ryan Flannigan attributes his multifaceted career as a physician, medical leader and researcher to his passion for high school science fairs across Canada and in Australia and in competitive sports.
“The creative process of trying to do something different than what others had not thought of or coming up with a solution for something not met is satisfying," Ryan shares.
While earning his undergraduate degree in science, Ryan spent his summers training with the Olympic archery coach. In the summer following his first year of undergraduate studies Ryan was training to qualify for the National archery team and working in an ophthalmology research lab when he met someone who helped set in motion his trailblazing career in medicine.
The lab supervisor introduced Ryan to her husband, a urologist, who became a mentor to Ryan.
“For a few days that summer, I shadowed him while he operated and this shifted my ambitions," reflects Ryan. “It pushed me more towards a surgical career. The surgical exposure was a pivotal moment in my career."
Ryan was drawn to the surgical complexity, precision of reconstruction and the frame of mind that can result in good outcomes all transferable qualities from his archery experience.
During his undergrad in psychology, Ryan became interested in urology and in advocacy for men's health. He was particularly invested in addressing challenges that he came across in his clinical and programmatic work, all of which led him to his sub-specialty and a fellowship in reproductive medicine and microsurgery based in New York after completing his surgical residency at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“The fellowship helped me learn the skill set and science to understand the opportunities for innovation and clinical needs that weren't being met in the field," Ryan says. “This fascinated me."
This intrigue motivated Ryan to come back to B.C. to establish a new male reproductive and sexual medicine translational research program at UBC and to lead research with the VCH Research Institute.
Earlier this year, Ryan and his research assistant were recognized for two world firsts — printing 3D human testicular cells and identifying early signs of sperm-producing capabilities. Read more.
Being a surgical scientist can be a juggling act sometimes, and Ryan chooses to see the positive in balancing his time and commitments.
“Each role has a different way of thinking and that's rewarding to me," Ryan says. “Even the times when I can't help a patient in a way they want because of limitations with adequate treatment, it's disappointing. It's also a unique opportunity for science and the future care of someone else."
Grounded in curiosity, problem solving and relationship building, Ryan says he's a better physician today because of the care experiences with his patients.
“I provide care for a quality of health and emotional health that isn't necessarily visible. It reminds me that there's always more than meets the eye. You never know what people are dealing with."
Men's Health Week, June 11 - 17, helps build awareness about the importance of physical health and well-being among Canadian men.