Orthopaedic surgeon returns to hospital he was born in to work alongside his father

It was 32 years ago that Dr. Ryan J. Lilly was born in what was then known as Central Michigan Community Hospital, now McLaren Central Michigan. This summer, he returned to that same hospital as an orthopaedic surgeon and is working side by side with his father, Dr. Charles J. Lilly, who has been an orthopaedic surgeon in the community since 1985.

Dr. Ryan J. Lilly and his father, Dr. Charles J. Lilly, are both orthopaedic surgeons at McLaren Central Michigan.


“I think I’ve been recruiting this kid since he was five,” says Charles, with a chuckle. “He used to come to the hospital on weekends and on rounds with me.”


His father’s recruitment efforts started to do their work early on, says Ryan.


“That had a positive impact on me and got me interested in medicine at a young age,” he says. “It was definitely an earlier exposure to orthopaedics and medicine than most people would get.”


So, after attending Sacred Heart Academy, Ryan went on to the University of Michigan, where he completed his undergraduate studies in 2009. He then received his M.D. from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2013, and completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in 2018. Ryan advanced his knowledge in hip and knee reconstructive surgery with a fellowship at the University of Minnesota, focusing on adult joint reconstruction and replacement.


Through those many years, Ryan had the support and mentorship of his father back here in Mount Pleasant.


“We’ve talked a lot throughout his training because we were both interested in the same things professionally,” says Charles.


With his extensive training, Ryan is able to care for patients of all ages with both surgical and non-surgical treatments of bone and joint conditions; however, he specializes in joint replacement of shoulders, hips, and knees, as well as knee ligament reconstruction and the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of athletic injuries.


Ryan’s level of education gave him a wide variety of options when he was deciding where to begin his career. Ultimately, though, Mount Pleasant was the only place he wanted to be.


“It’s a combination of things. Growing up here, I enjoyed the area. It’s a great community feel that you don’t have growing up in other areas,” Ryan says. “The opportunity to work with my dad was a great thing that I could do.”


Charles remembers the feeling he had when he heard that Ryan would be coming to work at McLaren Central Michigan – when he discovered that the recruitment efforts he began when Ryan was just 5 years old had come to fruition.


“I was elated,” he says. “From a parental view, it’s awesome to have your kid back here. From an orthopaedic point of view, it’s extraordinary to have him here. He’s going to do great things for this community. I think this community is really going to benefit from having Ryan back here, and I think he’s going to benefit from the lifestyle he can have here in Mount Pleasant.”


In his first few months at McLaren Central Michigan, Ryan says he has enjoyed working side by side with his father – discussing cases, reviewing x-rays, and even performing surgeries together.


“It’s a lot of fun to work with him,” he says. “It’s great to have someone as a mentor who’s also my father. . . That experience is invaluable – to pick his brain about things.”

Dr. Ryan J. Lilly says it's a lot of fun to work beside his father, Dr. Charles J. Lilly. Both are orthopaedic surgeons at McLaren Central Michigan.

Ryan isn’t the only one benefiting from the relationship, though. Charles says he is rejuvenated by his son’s presence. Additionally, just as Ryan can learn much from his father, Charles feels he can learn much from his son.


“We all try to keep up with the latest and greatest in our field,” Charles says. “I don’t think there’s anything that encourages you to keep up with the state of the art in your field more than having someone new with you who is so well trained. I fully expect that I am going to be able to help him, but I expect I’m going to be able to learn from him too.”

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