PEORIA – Dr. Sara Rusch, regional dean for the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria since 2008, is retiring in May.

“It has been a great privilege for me to lead such an outstanding asset to our community, state and regional health-care 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.”

Rusch became UICOMP’s seventh regional dean in 2008. She is the first woman to serve in that capacity. During her time as regional dean, the campus has undergone major expansion with the addition of first-year medical students in 2017, which increased total annual enrollment to about 240 medical students. The number of physician residents has also increased from fewer than 200 to more than 300 through the establishment of a new residency program and five new fellowship training programs.

Rusch had an integral role in the creation of the world-class medical training facility, the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center, a collaboration between UICOMP and OSF HealthCare. On the UICOMP campus, she 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  eliminated the existing debt and brought campus operations out of deficit spending.

Rusch, a Wisconsin native, came to Peoria in 1978 as a physician resident in internal medicine. After completing her training, Rusch entered private practice, 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.

“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 Dr. Chuck Ray, UICOMP interim executive dean.

Transition planning has already begun, said Ray.