When you think of a family business, medicine may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Dr. Sara Rusch, regional dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, and Dr. Tom Cusack, chair of the radiology department at UICOMP, both have very demanding medical careers, and at the end of the day, they try to leave the business at the office and switch the focus to family.

Drs. Rusch and Cusack have been married for more than 30 years, but to many who know them only in the context of their work environment, you would never know it. “We try to be very independent while at work,” explained Dr. Rusch. “We attend the same meetings and conferences, but he has his duties and I have mine, so we aren’t necessarily working together day to day.”

Their relationship began in the days when physicians had to wait for radiology film to develop in a waiting area. Dr. Rusch was a young resident; Dr. Cusack’s office was the closest to the waiting area. And so began a union which has become the anchor of a family that now includes seven children and six grandchildren. (Dr. Cusack was a widower with three children when they married.)

Working together, the couple has learned a lot about one another. “While we both have the same goals, we have very different approaches. At work, Tom is very cause-and-effect oriented, while I am more detail-oriented. However, this makes for a nice balance,” said Dr. Rusch.

“Working with Dr. Rusch is beneficial because we speak the same language and we truly understand each other’s careers,” said Dr. Cusack.

“If he gets a call in the middle of the night, I understand how serious the situation must be more than most wives would,” explained Dr. Rusch.

Although they work in close quarters, these two physicians know very little about the daily interactions of one another. “We take patient confidentiality very seriously, and so there are certain things we just can’t share,” said Dr. Cusack.

While dinner conversation may not have been filled with the standard, “How was your day?” questions, the couple managed to make sure it was filled with other things. “Even though at one time we had three children under the age of two, a five-year-old and three teenage drivers all at once, we still made sure to instill the importance of an uninterrupted family dinner,” said Dr. Rusch. “We are very careful not to make our home lives all about our job lives.”

And that’s not all they instilled. “We both immensely enjoy our careers because we truly feel like we make a difference,” said Dr. Rusch. “And that is something I like to think we have passed on to our children.”

Three of their seven children are now in medical school, and one is a practicing orthodontist. It continues the family’s connection to medicine, which includes Dr. Cusack’s father, Patrick, who served as president of the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center medical staff from 1943 to 1944. Two of Tom’s eight brothers are also physicians.

While both lead very busy lives, they attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy by making their large family a priority. A quick scan of Dr. Rusch’s office reveals numerous photos depicting everything from family vacations to professional shots at various junctures in their family life.

To most, the idea of inheriting a family business involves handing down physical assets. But to this family, this isn’t necessarily the case. “You can’t really hand down medicine,” said Dr. Rusch. “What Tom and I have tried to pass on to our children is a vision of a successful, fulfilling career path.”

Leading by example…regardless of the family business. iBi