Rush Provost: Embracing Change Over Four Decades


Thomas Deutsch, MD, with his father and daughter.

By Thomas Deutsch, MD

In many ways I’ve spent my entire life in the Rush family. My grandfather was a physician who practiced at the old St. Luke’s Hospital, my father was a Rush physician for over 50 years, and I’ve been here most of the past 40. My daughter is a recent graduate of Rush Medical College and has begun her residency at Rush. She will be the fourth generation Rush ophthalmologist! The Deutsch family is extremely proud to be part of the Rush family.

I came to Rush in 1975 as a medical student, and since then my roles have changed a number of times. After medical school, I spent one year as an intern, and then returned four years later in charge of the medical student and residency education programs in the department of ophthalmology. As the “program director” for 12 years and then chair of the department for an additional eight years, we were able to develop the largest and most comprehensive academic department of ophthalmology in Chicago.

As with many Rush physicians, I had an opportunity to develop both a clinical and academic career, trying to balance excellent patient care with research, teaching and increasing responsibility for administration. Interestingly, I really believe that I am a better doctor because I have done all of these other things, and that I am a better administrator because I am a doctor. Despite all of my roles over the years, I have continued to see patients and do surgery, and I have been fortunate that my administrative “partners” have allowed me that time.

Six-month assignment

From 1998 until 2000, I also served in additional position as the assistant dean for Graduate Medical Education, and from 2000 until 2002 as the associate dean for Graduate Medical Education. It was really eye-opening to me, to understand the internal workings of our large educational programs, with GME comprising over 40 individual residency programs with a total of over 620 residents. These programs were outstanding, with each of them accredited and very competitive.

In January, 2002, the then-dean of Rush Medical College, Dr. Larry Goodman, was elevated to the position of CEO of Rush University Medical Center, and president of Rush University. In a very short phone call, Dr. Goodman asked me to be the acting dean of Rush Medical College, and I accepted. I expected that this assignment would last for approximately six months. So, 13 1/2 years later, I’m finally nearing the end of my tenure as dean.

In the 40 years since I came to Rush, I have seen both dramatic changes and continuity. Medical education, like all of education, has evolved as more information is available to students, making it almost impossible to know all that is knowable. We now emphasize the importance of capturing needed information at the time it is needed for patient care, more than just memorization. This is despite the fact that our students are smarter, better prepared and more accomplished than they have ever been.

‘Exciting new phase’

Over the past several years, we have recruited a number of outstanding new leaders, and that leadership of our already outstanding programs will serve us very well in many years to come. These leaders bring the traditional “triple threat” to the academic medical center, with clinical, academic, and administrative skills that model the success we value for all of our students and faculty members.

Approximately 10 years ago, we reorganized the structure of Rush University, creating a position of provost and an infrastructure to support the growth of our academic programs. We have nearly doubled the number of students in Rush University, and have created new excellence in the administrative structure. For me, an exciting new phase in the development of Rush University begins with a separation of the jobs of dean of Rush Medical College and provost of Rush University. I have chosen to concentrate on Rush University, and when a new dean of Rush Medical College arrives later this fall, I will begin my work as the full-time provost of the University.

One of the things that successful administrators must embrace is change. As I have had an ever-changing set of challenges and responsibilities, it has helped me assist others in adapting to the evolution of our field. I’m looking forward to this next challenge!

Thomas Deutsch, MD, is an ophthalmologist at Rush University Medical Center, dean of Rush Medical College and provost of Rush University.

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