Ryan Park ’19 – Extraordinary Promise

Ryan Park ’19
Ryan Park ’19 at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, where he works as a student researcher.

By Diane Seo ’85

Ryan Park ’19 initially strikes one as a typical teenager – friendly and polite with an endearing nervous laugh. But after delving into his myriad of accomplishments, current endeavors and future aspirations, it’s clear this recent Punahou graduate is hardly ordinary.

As one of the country’s 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars – awarded to only 161 high school seniors nationwide – Park was singled out for his academic achievement, community service and leadership. Park, who will be attending Stanford University this fall and studying biomedical computation, describes the award as “pure honor.”

The distinction, however, is one of many Park has on his lengthy résumé. To name a few, he’s a 2019 Coca-Cola Scholar (with a $20,000 scholarship); a recipient of the Punahou Alumni Association Senior Award; and a 2019 Prudential Spirit of the Community State Honoree, for his nonprofit, Helping Oncology Patients Everywhere (HOPE).

But it’s his work as a student researcher at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center that best reflects his singular drive, discipline and promise. For the past two years, Park has been diving into complex projects, such as mapping how proteins work to cause cancer, and publishing in major medical journals. (He’s the first author for work published by Oxford University Press and co-authored an article for Gastroenterology.) He sees his cancer research continuing during college and thereafter. “When I was growing up, I really wanted to be a doctor, but now, I realize I can make an impact on a lot of people’s lives in different ways,” he said. “I still want to go to medical school, but I want to use that training toward research and maybe a biotech start-up.”

What’s also significant about Park’s time at the cancer center is that it was self-driven. He secured the position through a UH professor, and worked long hours, including weekends, at the lab. “Punahou fosters that type of environment where they want you to do things on your own,” he said. “I really appreciated that.”

Janet Chang ’78 Oshiro – an Academy math faculty member who Park cited as his most inspirational teacher for the Presidential Scholar award – said her young protégé has an extremely focused mindset about what he wants to achieve and works single-mindedly toward his goals. “While other students are thinking about what they want to do, he is working toward that dream now,” she says.

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