Dr. Sara Rusch, Regional Dean for the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) since 2008, announced her intent to retire in May of 2019. Rusch leaves a legacy of campus expansion, enhancement of the medical education programs, financial stability and facility upgrades.
“It has been a great privilege for me to lead such an outstanding asset to our community, state, and regional healthcare economy,” Rusch said. “I am very proud of what my faculty and staff have accomplished during my tenure as regional dean. The College of Medicine truly lives up to its mission, which is to ‘lead collaboration to improve health.’ I’ll miss the challenges and joys, but I look forward to spending more time with my husband, seven children and 11 grandchildren.”
Dr. Chuck Ray, Interim Executive Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, said: “Sara is a respected advocate for medical education, an excellent mentor, a talented business person and a committed physician who has provided the highest level of leadership and advocacy for her faculty, her students and the Peoria community,” said Ray. “The University of Illinois College of Medicine at our campuses in Peoria, Chicago, Rockford, and Urbana have benefited from her intellect, integrity, collegiality and passion for medical education.” He noted that transition planning has already begun.
Dr. Rusch became UICOMP’s 7th regional dean, and the first woman to serve in that capacity, on January 22, 2008. During her time as Regional Dean, the campus has undergone major expansion, most notably with the addition of first-year medical students in 2017, which increased total annual enrollment to about 240 medical students annually. The number of physician residents – doctors in training – have increased in Peoria from fewer than 200 to more than 300, including establishing a new residency in psychiatry with UnityPoint Health Peoria and five new fellowship training programs with OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center: in cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonary critical care, hospice and palliative care, and simulation.
Dr. Rusch played an integral role in the creation of the Jump Trading Simulation Center, a world-class medical training facility, which is a UICOMP and OSF HealthCare collaboration. She also oversaw the completion of the $13 million, 24,000-square-foot Cancer Research Center addition in 2011; and the extensive remodeling of existing classrooms and student spaces, including the creation of a new human cadaver anatomy laboratory. In her first four years as regional dean, Rusch managed to eliminate the campus’ existing debt and bring campus operations out of deficit spending, which she has since maintained.
Dr. Rusch, a Wisconsin native, originally came to Peoria in 1978 as a physician resident in internal medicine. After completing her medical training, she entered private practice and enjoyed caring for patients while also teaching in the residency. She became Chair of Medicine for OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and the University in 1993 and held that role for 15 years before becoming UICOMP Regional Dean. She has received numerous awards including UIC Woman of the Year, Athena International Leadership Award, Laureate Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, Mastership in the American College of Physicians, Faculty Member of the Year and the UIC Dean’s Award for Excellence in Healthcare Leadership.