By: Tiffany King
May 4, 2023

Creating a Legacy of Giving

Throughout his time on campus, College of Coastal Georgia alumnus Ryan Gallagher ’20 found ways to give back to the campus community that has given him so much. This time, he’s giving back through the creation of a scholarship—The Ryan Nursing Scholarship—to benefit male nursing students. He never would’ve made it through college without scholarships, he said, and he wants to help others like him in their journeys to becoming nurses.

The Ryan Nursing Scholarship benefits male nursing students in their senior year of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the College. The scholarship will help students who are in need, so they can stay focused on their studies and complete the program. Gallagher fully understands the impact a scholarship can have in a student’s life.

 “I would not have been able to make it through college if it weren’t for the scholarships I received while in school, and the continued support of the entire campus during my journey to become a nurse,” he said. “I truly believe in paying it forward when you have a chance, and I’ve found myself in a position to be able to help others that may be struggling financially like I was.”

Instead of waiting well into his career to create a scholarship, Gallagher decided that now was the right time. He currently works in the progressive care unit at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, and volunteers with the Forsyth Community Clinic to provide healthcare to individuals without insurance.


Becoming a Reality

The idea of becoming a nurse never crossed Gallagher’s mind at a young age. Raised in Alpharetta, Georgia, his mother was an administrator and his father is an engineer. He decided to pursue nursing after it was brought to his attention as a possible career.

 “It started off as a joke one night sitting at a table, as an excuse to wear a comfortable uniform to work every day,” he said. “I had an excellent anatomy teacher at my high school that piqued my interests in the subject and challenged my learning, and a combination of curiosity and the promise of comfortable work attire steered me toward nursing.”

The more he learned about nursing as a rewarding career that fosters a strong work-life balance, the more he wanted to become a part of it. Gallagher came to the College with the hope of not only becoming a nurse, but to discover himself, expand his horizon, and learn more about life.

“The idea of going to college in a small, quiet town by the beach was very appealing and allowed me to be in an environment completely removed from every comfort of home, and experience life in a completely new way,” he said. “I had decided on going to nursing school, and this one felt like the perfect fit when I toured—this is actually the only college I’ve ever applied to.”

One of the highlights from his time in nursing school was wearing his nursing uniform for the first time. Students donned their uniforms for skills days in the lab, where they learned the basics before going into clinical settings.

“I vividly remember how excited I was to wear them for the first time with my stethoscope. That’s the first moment where my quest to become a nurse became a reality—especially because I had never worked in healthcare before, nor do I have family in the field,” he said.

Another favorite moment was participating in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®, hosted by the College of Coastal Georgia’s Student Health Center. The Walk is part of The International Men’s March to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. Male participants walked around campus in red high heels as a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in the community about the serious problem of sexual assault and domestic violence against women. Most men walked, while others ran or jogged—especially as they got close to the finish line.

“It addressed a serious topic, but also allowed us to laugh at each other, as many of the men stumbled and wobbled while walking in high heels for the first time in their lives,” he said. “It was a nice reprieve for all of us and strengthened our bond as a group. My cohort was able to witness its start as an annual tradition at the College.”

Gallagher misses the camaraderie of his cohort. He explained that nursing students and their faculty become a close-knit group because of the amount of time they spend together throughout the program. He always felt uplifted by his peers as they worked together towards the common goal of becoming nurses.

“During my time at Coastal Georgia, I was frequently found spending many afternoons having coffee with my nursing professors, and receiving continued support and encouragement from the nursing department along the way,” he said.

He also spent a lot of time with other professors outside of the nursing program—going to their office hours and gleaning from their experiences as well. They took the time to help him grow as both a student and a person.

Getting Involved

Gallagher became engrained in the campus culture. He made a lot of new friends during his first year at Coastal, and came to enjoy many on-campus activities such as Mariner Fest, Salsaween, and Late Night Breakfast. It was a great way to take a break from learning, he said, and enjoy special moments with others. He was a presidential student ambassador, and served as president of the Coastal Georgia Association of Nursing Students (CGANS) and the Golden Key Honor Society. Gallagher also helped students academically as a supplemental instructor for anatomy for three years. He viewed his involvement on campus as a way to give back and spread the joy he experienced at the College with new students.

“I thoroughly loved working with students and sharing my passion for anatomy while we learned together,” Gallagher said. “Through these moments, I’ve fostered several long-lasting relationships with people that continue to be a part of my life.”

His advice for students is to be proactive in their coursework, ask for help early and schedule time to do something fun. For nursing students, he shared that “professionalism is paramount and can guide you through tough situations” and that it’s important to have more good days than bad.

“The role of the nurse changes drastically depending on what kind of work you are doing,” he said. “Be open to learning new things because you never know what new opportunities may present themselves.” 

In his journey to becoming a nurse, Gallagher has learned the importance of taking care of yourself before trying to take on the world. Some of the ways he takes care of himself are through international travel, hiking, playing video games, and catching up with friends over a meal.

No matter where he is, Gallagher is sure to be found taking care of others—whether in a hospital, community or through a scholarship. He’s created a legacy at the College that will continue to impact others through the making of future nurses.