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Highlighting Women Physicians in March 2024

Highlighting Women Physicians in March 2024

Highlighting Women Physicians in March 2024

The Women in Medicine and Science Council at UICOMP has selected four women physicians to highlight this month in recognition of Women’s History Month.

Sara Rusch, MD Heading link

Headshot of Dr. Sara Rousch

Sara Rusch, MD
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine
Department of Medicine

Dr. Sara Rusch graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1974 with a BA degree in Molecular Biology and received her medical degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1978. Dr. Rusch was appointed Regional Dean of the UICOMP in January 2008, becoming the college’s seventh regional dean since it was established in 1970. Before becoming regional dean, she spent her 30-year career as a general internist caring for patients and teaching medical students and residents as well as filling various leadership roles including Internal Medicine Residency Program Director, and Chair of the Department of Medicine at UICOMP and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. As Regional Dean, Dr. Rusch led multiple efforts to improve UICOMP including facility improvements, advancing simulation training, expanding research, and building the graduate medical education programs. She oversaw the $13 million expansion of the Cancer Research Center, construction of small-group active learning spaces to advance medical student education, and transformation of the Donald E. Rager, MD Clinical Skill Laboratory. Under her leadership, UICOMP in partnership with OSF HealthCare, helped in the development, construction and opening of the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center, a state-of-the-art virtual hospital and medical simulation facility. Additionally, Dr. Rusch served as Governor for the downstate chapter of the largest medical specialty organization in the U.S. – the American College of Physicians – from 2005-2009. In April of 2010, Dr. Rusch was elected to ACP Mastership. She also has been recognized as an educator and mentor of young physicians, an academic leader and a skilled clinician, receiving the Athena Award from the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce in 2011, UIC Woman of the Year in 2011 and Mother M. Frances Krasse Healthcare Professions Leader award from the YWCA in 2012.

Jocelyn McClain, MD Heading link

Headshot of Dr. Jocelyn McClain

Jocelyn McClain, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Surgery

Dr. Jocelyn McClain earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University before graduating from Howard University College of Medicine. She is a board-certified anesthesiologist practicing at OSF St Francis Medical Center providing exceptional patient care, and serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor in Anesthesiology for UICOMP. Her clinical expertise and dedication of her nearly 40-year career to the education of medical students and residents in clinical anesthesiology has been honored with the UICOMP Outstanding Teaching Award. Despite her demanding clinical and teaching responsibilities, Dr. McClain also serves her field nationally as an exam content editor for the American Board of Anesthesiology and as a senior oral board examiner for the Standard Oral Examination in Anesthesiology. She has also set herself apart by further contributing to the greater Peoria area as acting President of the Central Illinois Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, a nonprofit organization committed to transforming communities through service. Co-chairing the UICOMP Women in Medicine and Science Council for the past two years has been a welcomed opportunity to further her commitment to medical education as well as address issues specific to women in medicine and the delivery of quality care to communities of color.

Amy Christison, MD Heading link

Headshot of Dr Amy Christison

Amy Christison, MD
Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Amy Christison earned her medical degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University and completed her residency training at Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago.  She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UICOMP, a general pediatrician and obesity medicine specialist.  She serves as Medical Director of Healthy Kids U, the Assistant Program Director of UICOMP Pediatric Residency and the UICOM Healthcare Systems Theme Curricular Lead.  She is active in regional, state and national committees including past executive committee member for ICAAP, current Co-Chair of the ICAAP Promoting Nutrition Security taskforce and Co-Chair of the AAP COACHES Network.  Her scholarly focus is in clinical outcomes, practice-based research, and childhood obesity prevention and treatment. She serves on two national obesity research networks and is the Co-Chair of the Research Committee and member of the Governance Committee of POWER, the first US registry of pediatric weight management programs.  She is active in student, resident and faculty mentorship and serves as a mentor for the AMA Health Systems Science Scholars Program.  She has won numerous awards including the YWCA Mother M Frances Krasse Professions Award in 2009, the Leonard Tow Gold Humanism Award in 2015, numerous teaching awards at both the student and resident level, as well as the UICOMP Researcher of the year in 2018.   Most recently in 2022, Dr. Christison was honored with The AAP National Special Achievement Award.  She continues to work tirelessly in obesity research, combatting food insecurity in our community, and to mentor, support, and guide learners at all levels.

Thembi Conner-Garcia, MD, MPH Heading link

Headshot of Dr. Thembi Conner-Garcia, MD, MPH

Thembi Conner-Garcia, MD, MPH
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Health Science Education and Pathology (HSEP)

Dr. Thembi Conner-Garcia holds a Master of Public Health degree and is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine. She serves as a UICOMP Clinical Assistant Professor and Co-director for Medical Colloquia and Synthesis courses. Dr. Conner-Garcia excels as a physician scientist and educator, providing outstanding role modeling and mentorship to countless medical students and residents. Her research is designed to ameliorate healthcare disparities, a root cause of which is low health literacy, and her team has received research awards from the National Institute of Health, bringing more than three million federal research dollars benefiting the patients of central Illinois. Distinguished not only by her professional accomplishments, Dr. Conner-Garcia has set herself apart through volunteer service with Storming the Gates, a documentary film that chronicles the struggles of African Americans, Latinos and American Indians in higher education in the state of Illinois, as well as serving on the Health Advisory Board for Peoria Head Start. She frequently presents at a variety of public events including the Women’s Lifestyle Show, Central Illinois Black Expo, Bethel United Methodist Church’s annual Women’s Health Conference, Be Healthy lecture series at the City of Refuge Worship Center, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority TOTAL Summit, Martin Luther King Freedom March and Peoria Christian School. Through her professional and volunteer commitments, Dr. Conner-Garcia addresses health disparities and promotes healthy lifestyles in the community, continually striving to make central Illinois a better place in which to live and work.