Third-year medical student from OUWB helps save man’s life at local gym
A headshot of Ryan Ko
Ryan Ko

A third-year medical student from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine is being credited with recently helping save a man’s life at a local gym.

Ryan Ko, M3, jumped into action on April 7 at a Planet Fitness in Southfield.

Ko says he tapped CPR skills learned at OUWB and recently revisited during a clerkship at Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital in Royal Oak.

His actions allowed enough time for paramedics to arrive and transport the man to the hospital, where he is recovering.

And even though says the experience made him feel “very emotional,” Ko remains humble about what he did, chalking it up to simply doing what he’s trained to do.

“I don’t think I’m special in this regard,” he says. “I know so many of my peers that I would trust with my own life…it could have been any of us, and I think that any of us would have done the same. What we have learned at OUWB prepares us for this kind of situation.”

Duane Mezwa, M.D., Stephan Sharf Dean, OUWB, says he “could not be prouder of Ryan, who immediately jumped into action and saved a life.”

“When I hear that one of our OUWB students performs beyond what we expect from our future physicians it gives me immense pride knowing we are accomplishing what we set out to do.... create caring compassionate physicians who respond to a crisis in a professional manner,” says Mezwa.

‘I dropped all of my stuff’

On April 7, Ko woke late in the day after being on the night shift for a surgery clerkship the entire week.

Around 6 p.m., he decided to hit the Planet Fitness on Southfield Road in Southfield, where he has a membership.

Not too long after he had put on his headphones, cranked some music, and started his warm-up on a StairMaster, Ko noticed a commotion — a man was lying on the ground and a group of about a dozen had gathered around the individual. They were yelling and trying to wake him up.

That’s when Ko took over.

“Almost immediately I realized what was going on so I dropped all of my stuff and ran over to the patron,” he says.

Another individual had started chest compressions, but Ko says he knew from his training at OUWB that the person was doing it wrong.

“I remembered from (Basic Life Support) and (Cardiac Life Support) that people tend to go too fast…and I noticed he was using the wrong form,” says Ko.

Ko immediately identified himself as a medical student and took over.

“I knew it would be much different than the simulations of training, but I didn’t realize how stressful it would be when there’s a lot of people and no one knows what is happening,” he says.

One person said the individual needed oxygen. Another said compressions weren’t needed. Still another said the person simply needed water.

Still, Ko knew better and kept up with the compressions, taking a break to listen to his lungs and resuming compressions when he didn’t hear anything.

By the time employees were running toward the man with an AED, first responders were coming through the door.

Seven long minutes had passed, but for Ko…a blink.

“It felt like no time had passed at all…like 30 seconds,” he says

‘Very emotional’

An image of the team behind the COVID-19 vaccine campaign
Brandon Prentice, M3, Pastor Jones from Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac, and Ko. The picture was taken when Prentice and Ko were heavily involved in educating others about COVID-19 vaccines. 

Ko heads into his fourth year of medical school with plans to specialize in radiation oncology.

Throughout his time at OUWB, he has been active on both local and a national levels.

In 2021, he — along with classmates Mallory Evans and Brandon Prentice — led a critical mission to educate as many people in southeast Michigan as possible about COVID-19 vaccines.

In 2022, he was elected to the AAMC Organization of Student Representatives Administrative Board and served as a national delegate.

Just a few weeks ago, Ko was among a group of four who gave a plenary talk at an American Association of Medical Colleges conference on “Next Step 1: Navigating Expectations Following the Transition of USMLE Step 1 to Pass/Fail Scoring.”

But what happened at the Planet Fitness in Southfield, Michigan, on April 7, 2023, is what it’s all about, he says, and will stick with him forever. 

“It was very emotional for me since this is the first time I had a role in helping save a patient’s life,” says Ko. “It made me feel really good about my decision to go into medicine.”

More from OUWB

Community supports fourth-year OUWB medical student who suffered stroke weeks before Match Day

OUWB Anatomy Memorial recognizes donors’ ‘final act of kindness’

OUWB medical student’s Embark project is designed to save lives by teaching CPR

Ko says he was able to visit the individual at the hospital, and that he is “doing very well.”

That was confirmed by Mary Scott, vice president of marketing for Planet Fitness in southeast Michigan, Grand Rapids, and Toledo, Ohio.

Scott says the company is “very appreciative” of Ko’s assistance.

“Ryan did not hesitate to jump in and help by administering chest compressions,” she says. “Thanks to his quick action, our staff was able to focus on contacting EMS and ensuring that the area was cleared for emergency workers.”

Mezwa says that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes him most proud when he learns of students like Ko who don’t hesitate to jump into action when duty calls.

“We as a community are all in a better place because of these outstanding students walking in our midst,” he says.

Other OUWB medical students are drawing inspiration from Ko's actions.

"It makes me feel grateful to receive comprehensive training in CPR during our medical school years as it has shown utility within and beyond the hospital environment," says Nicholas Totah, M3.

"He exemplified a brave call to action," adds Totah.

"I'm glad to be a part of a community that puts patients first."

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.