By Rubin E. Grant
From the moment Jenny Senske met her future husband, Dr. Mike Ryan, in 2010 in New York City, she heard about his best friend and college roommate, Dr. Marc Rothermich.
Mike Ryan told her about their goal to work in the same medical practice. Senske was more than skeptical.
“I thought it was a pipe dream,” said Jenny Ryan, who married Mike Ryan on New Year’s Eve 2015.
Well, 2½ weeks ago, the pipe dream became reality after 16 years when Rothermich joined Mike Ryan on the medical staff at Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham.
“It’s incredible,” Mike Ryan said. “Our goal has finally come to realization.”
“It’s been a long and winding road, but amazing the way it worked out,” Rothermich said.
Sometimes, the two friends assist each other in the operating room. Last Friday, they were on the sidelines at two Over the Mountain high school football games.
Mike Ryan is team physician for Spain Park, as well as Samford University, and was at the Jaguars’ game against crosstown rival Hoover at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Rothermich is assisting Vestavia Hills team physician Jeffrey Dugas and was at the Rebels’ home game against Thompson.
Mike and Jenny Ryan live in Mountain Brook and Rothermich lives in Vestavia Hills with his wife of five years, Alissa, and their two young children, Benjamin, 3, and Ella, 1.
From South Bend to Birmingham
Mike Ryan originally is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Rothermich is from St. Louis, Missouri. They became friends and later roommates after arriving on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana.
“We practically met the first day when I got out of the car in South Bend,” Rothermich said. “There are no fraternities or sororities at Notre Dame. The freshmen are randomly assigned dorm rooms and I was three doors away from Mike.
“Over our four years at Notre Dame, we became roommates and did college together – the whole experience.”
Shortly after meeting they found out they had the same interests.
“We trained for a couple of marathons together and discovered we had similar dreams professionally and personally,” Rothermich said. “We both were pre-med majors and theology minors. We both realized we liked orthopaedics. The idea was born to join a practice together.”
The two went their separate ways after graduating from Notre Dame. Rothermich went to the University of Virginia Medical School and Mike Ryan attended the University of Georgetown School of Medicine.
Following med school, Rothermich completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in affiliation with Washington University in St. Louis, while Mike Ryan completed orthopaedic residency training at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases.
They reconnected in 2016 in Birmingham when they landed sports medicine fellowships at the American Sports Medicine Institute.
After the fellowship, Mike Ryan completed a fellowship in Bern, Switzerland, training alongside the world’s top innovators in hip preservation and surgical treatment of hip pathology in adolescents and young adults. He returned to Birmingham in 2018 after the fellowship in Switzerland to become a member of the Hip Center at Andrews Sports Medicine.
Rothermich, who specializes in elbows, knees and shoulders, went to Jupiter, Florida, after his fellowship in Birmingham and joined South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, serving as a consultant for the New York Mets as well as the team physician for various local organizations and high schools.
Then, the opportunity came along for Rothermich to join Andrews Sports Medicine and he jumped at the chance to return to Birmingham and reunite with Mike Ryan.
“I’m glad to be get back here,” Rothermich said. “I came down the fall of ’16 for my fellowship and fell in love with Vestavia.”
Being in the same practice with Mike Ryan makes the return even better.
“I know all of Mike’s family, and I joked with his mom that I can’t get rid of this guy,” Rothermich said with a laugh. “It’s a special friendship. It’s been a continuous relationship for us and both of our wives.”
Both wives are accomplished professionals.
Jenny Ryan, who’s from Southern California and graduated from Princeton, has worked as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and in cybersecurity for Forescout Technologies Inc. in Silicon Valley in California. She’s now a cycle trainer and earlier this year founded the “blueroot company,” a pop-up restaurant in Pepper Place that focuses on healthy, nutrient-dense food.
Alissa Rothermich, an Emmy-nominated anchor and reporter originally from St. Louis, recently became an anchor on WIAT’s “CBS 42 Morning News with Art Franklin.” Before joining CBS 42, she worked as an evening anchor at KMOV in St. Louis and worked in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Fort Myers, Florida. She is an alum of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Jenny Ryan and Allisa Rothermich also have become close.
“Allisa is one of my dearest friends,” Jenny Ryan said. “I am so grateful they’re here. And their children are precious little nuggets. I love them.”
“We don’t have any immediate family here so we’ve been each other’s family,” Allissa Rothermich said. “It’s a fun relationship. Our kids call them uncle Mike and aunt Jenny.”
Living in SEC Country
So, how do the doctors from Notre Dame cope with being in the midst of Southeastern Conference football country, surrounded by fans of Alabama and Auburn?
“I’ve always been an SEC fan,” Rothermich said, “and thankfully I grew up after the height of the Notre Dame-Alabama rivalry, so I have enjoyed a unique opportunity to root for both teams. It’s impossible to live here and not want to watch SEC football every Saturday, so I quickly adapted.”
Mike Ryan has received some flak for his connection to Notre Dame. During his interview for his fellowship, one of the doctors brought up the 2013 BCS National Championship game between the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish while sitting in an office with a painting of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy running over a Notre Dame linebacker. Alabama routed Notre Dame 42-14 to win the national title.
Despite that initial grief, Mike Ryan has become a fan of the SEC.
“My love of college football has … grown down here watching so many great teams and athletes,” Mike Ryan said. “And while the historical rivalry between Notre Dame and Alabama is real, my personal feelings and experience of rivalry sits with (the Irish’s perennial foes) Michigan and USC.”