UH Med Now
Ryder Onopa, MD: The healer faces death with grace, at 30
Pictured: Ryder receives a lei from his mother, Dr. Janet Onopa, at the 2014 MD Convocation Ceremony. John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Photo by A. Kameda.
A punch to the gut. A flush of gratitude. A flash of outrage. Deep sorrow. The motivation to do something.
Those who loved Dr. Ryder Onopa (JABSOM MD 2014) — and there were many, many who did — have experienced what those things feel like, in no particular order, since learning the news. Ryder, with the bright, easy smile; the goofy laugh and intellectual brilliance, was dying.
Just over two weeks later, on August 17, 2017 in the early evening, Ryder died.
“Many remember not only the unrivaled brilliance and insatiable curiosity he brought to medicine, but also his uncanny ability to connect and empathize with his patients and their families,” said Dr. Lauren Oshima (JABSOM MD 2016). “He could build rapport and trust in seconds with his gentle soul, warm heart, accepting and non-judgmental demeanor, humble spirit, and genuine interest in who his patients and their families were as people.”
Ryder was to be one of the four Chief Residents in Internal Medicine this year. Among the places he worked was the Department of Native Hawaiian Health’s Lau Ola Clinic under the direct guidance of Dr. Dee-Ann Carpenter, who remembers her own training by Ryder’s mom, Janet Onopa, MD (JABSOM MD 1983).
“As soon as I met Ryder, I told Janet I wanted to adopt him. She would tease me and say, ‘no, no, he’s mine.’ He had the sweetest soul and could easily be your best friend. He was genuine and selfless and very real. He was humble,” Dr. Carpenter said, talking as tears flowed from her eyes.
Dr. Carpenter knew Ryder wanted to go into palliative care. Everyone believed he would be tremendous at it.