With heavy hearts and an overwhelming sense of loss, we announce the unexpected and sudden passing of Ryan Jacob O’Hara—a remarkable man who gained Heavenly wings days before celebrating his 30th birthday—following a tragic and unexplainable pulmonary embolism at home. Ryan was a beacon of love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. All who knew and loved him are heartbroken at the loss of an incredible son, brother, uncle, fiancé, and friend.
Ryan, 29, was born on October 8, 1993 to Patrick and Denese O’Hara. Together with his parents and older brother Branson, they called Asheboro, NC home. Throughout his life, Ryan committed wholeheartedly to everything he set his mind to, from school and his career to youth sports teams, volunteering, and service initiatives. His legacy will continue to shine brightly in our hearts, as we remember how Ryan brought immeasurable joy to those around him.
Ryan lit up every room with laughter, quick wit, encouragement, knowledge, and a competitive spirit. He was everyone’s friend. He was selfless, sentimental, and a bit stubborn. The kind of stubborn that challenged you to dream bigger and work harder because he knew it was possible. Ryan always had everything mapped out, from long-term career and life goals to trips, adventures, holiday plans, and special celebrations. His personality was bold, yet gentle. His smile was contagious. His capacity for love will always be remembered.
From an early age, Ryan embraced all opportunities. He played every little league sport, but took a particular interest in football and basketball. Ryan played as offensive lineman for the Southwestern Randolph Cougars and earned the All-Conference award his senior year. In high school, there wasn’t much Ryan didn’t do: he was salutatorian, joined every student club but one, participated in the 9outa10 Initiative, organized a 5k for cancer, and was selected by the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce for the Student Leadership Information for Tomorrow Program.
Ryan is a proud Tar Heel and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sports Science and minor in coaching education in 2016. He participated and later counseled in the Summer Bridge Program, served the UNC Football team as a volunteer Athletic Trainer, and mentored other students as a Resident Advisor. Ryan loved the semester he spent abroad in London, and treasured his experience working as an Autism Provision Intern with the Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre. Ryan always empowered those around him and was driven to give back in the community. For many years, Ryan volunteered with the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA, helping manage the Kids Triathalon and coach Special Olympics each season, as well as the annual YMCA JV Basketball Tournament.
Following graduation from Carolina, Ryan went on to attend Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program where he graduated in 2018. He was passionate about medicine and the PA profession. There, Ryan met so many like-minded friends and colleagues that inspired his future career path. As a student, he volunteered with the Delivering Equal Access to Care (DEAC) Clinic, as well as the State Employees Credit Union House to serve family members of patients at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. He was never one to enjoy sitting still or doing the mundane, so Emergency Medicine was his calling. Ryan entered clinical practice as a PA in the Emergency Department at High Point Medical Center upon graduation, and was promoted to the inaugural Lead Advanced Practice Provider (APP) position only two years later. He also served as a clinical preceptor to students and taught at High Point University as Adjunct and later Assistant Professor. Ryan was a member of the NC Academy of Physician Assistants, where he served as Chair of the Membership and Marketing Committee.
Ryan was always a high achiever. To enhance his abilities as a PA educator, Ryan pursued a Doctorate of Medical Science (DMSc) with AT-Still University. He always took a curveball and made the best of it. When COVID lockdown then brought the world (outside of healthcare) to a standstill, Ryan decided to pursue another degree: an MBA from UNC-Pembroke. After extensive networking and mentoring about the breadth of opportunities available to PAs, Ryan decided to make the switch to a career in industry as a Medical Science Liaison. Ryan joined Eisai US within their Oncology group in 2022. He loved this position, its mission, and his colleagues. With Eisai, Ryan was the Disease State Lead for Differentiated Thyroid Cancer, built relationships with key opinion leaders and healthcare providers, led and covered national congresses, and presented complex scientific data and other insights to stakeholders.
May we always strive to embody Ryan’s spirit, drive, and zest for life.
A celebration of life will be held at Pugh Funeral Home on Saturday, October 14, 2023 with Charles Moses officiating. Visitation with family will begin at 1:30 pm, with a service to follow at 3:30 pm. Please wear Carolina blue and bow ties in Ryan’s honor.
Ryan is survived by his parents Patrick and Denese O’Hara of Asheboro, fiancé Kendall Woodlief of Raleigh, brother and sister-in-law Branson and Jenny O’Hara of Seagrove, nephew Callen O’Hara of Seagrove, uncle and aunt Michael and Donna Morris of Denton, and many loving cousins. In addition to family, Ryan leaves behind a circle of close friends (his “PAmily”), colleagues, mentors, and peers. He was preceded in death by his grandparents Roby Branson and Diza Morris, William and Fay O’Hara, aunt Kyle O’Hara Young, and uncles Dennis Scott O’Hara and Kevin Stowe O’Hara.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Ryan Jacob O’Hara Memorial Scholarship, a named scholarship in his honor that will be awarded annually to a deserving Physician Assistant student at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Ryan was a fierce advocate for medical education, and we hope to continue his legacy of service and scholarship for many years to come. To access the scholarship fund, visit https://givebutter.com/ryanoharascholarship.