Aspiring doctor Rick Ryan was introduced to the Hughes family following the death of Rick's father, Chuck Ryan. Knowing he was dying, Chuck confided in his best friend from medical school, Bob Hughes, and asked him to take care of his family. Bob did what he asked and ended up falling in love with Chuck's widow, Nurse Jennifer Ryan. Unfortunately, Rick idolized his late father and couldn't stand the fact that his mother was involved with another man. Wanting to end his mother's engagement to Bob, Rick thought he had the perfect ammunition when he overheard Bob ex-wife, Lisa, mention that she thought she was pregnant. Hoping to tarnish Bob’s reputation, Rick told Jennifer that Lisa was pregnant with Bob's child. Jennifer though, was on to Rick and didn't believe the lie and married Bob, with an angry Rick refusing to attend. Unfortunately for the happy couple, Rick would continue to be a source of contention in their marriage due to his shoddy work at the hospital. At Memorial, Rick would shamelessly steal patients from Bob and David Stewart and make careless near-fatal diagnoses. Although Jennifer thought that Bob should be more lenient and understanding with Rick, Bob refused to give Rick any slack and finally felt he had no choice but to suspend Rick. Though Bob's rival, Dr. John Dixon, publicly accused Bob of having a vendetta against Rick, in private he warned him that he better shape up. However, the cocky young man continued to publicly side against Bob on hospital issues while his work performance worsened. Finally, he was put on probation, which furthered put a strain on the Hughes marriage. Ultimately, things reached their breaking point and Bob ended up having an affair with Jennifer's sister, Kim! In a startling turn, both Jennifer and Kim ended up pregnant with Bob's child at the same time, a fact that furthered poisoned Rick against his stepfather. Months later, Jennifer gave birth to a daughter, Frannie, Kim was told her child was stillborn, and an ousted Rick left town to "find himself."
Many years later, a seemingly chagrined Rick returned to Oakdale and told Bob that he was truly sorry for the pain he had caused him and Jennifer, who had since died. Giving Rick the benefit of the doubt, since he was Jennifer's son, Bob hired him at Memorial and got him a job as an assistant to Dr. Larry Travis. However, though Rick was older, he was far from wiser and he allowed Dr. Len Howell to use Travis's lab to manufacture PCP, in exchange for him being reinstated as a doctor. However, early on, Dr. Annie Stewart figured out what was going on and that operation failed. When that happened, Rick had to deal with his brother-in-law, James Stenbeck, who was working with the same organization to smuggle drugs and jewelry through Fashions, Ltd. In exchange for James keeping quiet about Rick’s involvement in the PCP scandal, Rick was to date two women that James wanted out of his hair, Margo Montgomery and Hayley Wilson. In the meantime, Howell disappeared! Soon, an investigation was launched and someone planted angel dust in Rick's apartment in order to throw the police off track. However, Rick found it first, and set up Travis so that he wouldn't be implicated. In the end, Larry and Rick were both cleared and Rick left town in shame again.
A few years later, in 1986, Rick's darkest secret was about to be revealed. When John Dixon found himself blackmailed by former Memorial administrator Howard Lansing, he immediately contacted Rick to ask him what was going on. When Rick told him, John warned him that they were about to pay the price that they should have paid nineteen years earlier. Apparently years earlier, Lansing and Rick led everyone to believe that Rick's Aunt Kim lost her baby, and then sold the child to a wealthy couple, the Fullertons. Two years later, after learning that the Fullertons had been killed in a train wreck, they confided the truth to John. Since they figured the child was dead, and since John had no love for Bob Hughes, he agreed to keep mum. However, Lansing had just discovered that they were wrong--the child, now an adult named Sabrina, didn't die with her parents. This was a fact that Lansing now wanted to rectify. At the same time, the Hughes were also inquiring about Sabrina since she bore an uncanny resemblance to Frannie. When Bob saw Lansing, he realized the truth and caught up with Lansing who confirmed it before going to jail. They then went to John, who confirmed that that was the story he was told two years after John told Kim her baby was dead. However, the Hughes weren't sure if John was telling the truth about his involvement, and Lansing hung himself in jail. That left Rick to confirm John’s story, but he was in hiding to escape imprisonment himself! Finally, Bob and his daughter-in-law, Margo, went to track down Rick to confirm his story. Desperate to stay out of jail, a panicked Rick pulled a gun on the pair and tried to tell them that John knew about it from the very beginning. However, he carelessly let it slip that John only found out two years later. A broken man, Rick fled from the authorities.
At the end of 1987, the OPD would learn that Rick, who was briefly suspected of killing James Stenbeck, was far away from Oakdale on a undisclosed Caribbean Island that had no extradition agreement with the U.S., so Rick could avoid being punished for all of his crimes.