Ryan Lam: Diagnoses Don’t Stop Dreams


Stephana Ocneanu

Senior Ryan Lam is the captain of the track team. He works everyday to better himself and those around him.

By Stephana Ocneanu, Staff Writer

Lying underneath a car, senior Ryan Lam spends hours adjusting out the kinks or adding a new feature to any vehicle. Once finished, he puts down his tools for a weight as he rushes to train in VPE and then puts down the dumbbell for a pencil as he attempts to absorb all the knowledge he can in his Honors Anatomy class. As the day winds down, he spends a period leading freshman boys in their gym class before leading all grades as captain of the Boy’s Track and Field “Jump Team” after school. While all this may sound chaotic to some, these are the only things that can keep an adrenaline-junkie like Lam sane.

While his compassion is innate, his motivation for all the driving passions of his life stems from something much deeper: a mental disorder. After being diagnosed with Manic Depression (a.k.a. Bipolar Disorder) in eighth grade, Lam promised himself that he wouldn’t let it corrupt his entire life. Although the disorder, which is characterized by episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs, can take a toll on any individual, Lam spends every day focusing all of his attention into academics, sports, and helping others to prove that it doesn’t need to define anyone.

“I want people to realize that although I’m bipolar, it doesn’t mean I’m a ticking time bomb. Although I have a mental illness, I’m still a human being and I can still do things on my own. I put my time into all these other things so I can get my mind off it, but it will still always be a part of me,” Lam said. “It’s a major factor that connects everything in my life, and people can quickly see that once they get to know me.”

After being diagnosed, Lam didn’t know what to expect when joining the track team as a freshman; all he knew was that if he wanted to succeed, which he so desperately did, he would need to put in 110% of his effort both on and off the track. So, he did. To improve, Lam invested his time into weightlifting after school until he was given the opportunity to take VPE (Varsity Physical Education) as a junior. While he was building up his own strength as an athlete, he also thoroughly encouraged his other teammates to do so as well — making him the perfect candidate as captain.

After meeting Lam in his public speaking, teammate and senior Derrick Noda remembered being inspired by Lam to join the track team after hearing his passion when speaking about the sport.

“What I noticed about Ryan was that he always has a positive mindset — which tied into him being a good captain because he was always the team player, but he also encouraged me or others to go harder in the weight room or at track practice,” Noda said.

His teammates aren’t the only ones who noted Lam’s attributes as a captain, but so were his coaches. Boy’s Track Coach and PE teacher, Christopher Vivone, knew since freshman year that Lam would be the type of athlete to not only work on improving himself but building up others as well.

“I would say his number one attribute is his character.  He does a lot of good things when no one is looking.  His work ethic is off the charts, but it is how he motivates the lower levels that impresses me.  He has the perfect mixture as a captain that you want.  He is tough and gets the guys moving when he has to, yet will come up and put his arm around someone who is struggling and tells him it will be okay and to keep working.  I have seen him do both many times,” Vivone said.

Although it occupies a lot of his attention, time and effort, the track isn’t the only area where Lam displays his passion for helping others. As a freshman, he began volunteering at summer camps and quickly discovered his love for working with kids and younger individuals. Then, as a junior, he was recommended to become a freshman PE leader and saw it as an opportunity to help the new highschoolers adjust and develop confidence despite the hectic environment they had just been thrown into.

By devoting his high school years to helping others in a summer camp, the weight room, the track team, or a freshmen gym class, it didn’t take long for Lam to figure out that he could turn his passion into a career by becoming a pediatric physician. By joining together his expansive knowledge in Anatomy and Physiology with his drive towards helping others, Lam hopes to hold onto all the things that give him joy in life. His bipolar disorder is a challenge, but so is leading 30 freshmen or a whole track team.