A Tribute to Ben F. Rusy, MD

Dr. Ben RusyDr. Ben F. Rusy, Emeritus Professor and former Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, passed away on December 27, 2021.

He received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering (1952) followed by a Doctor of Medicine (1956) from the University of Wisconsin. He completed an internship and residency in Anesthesiology at Temple University Medical School.

He married Anita L. Byrnes in Media, Pennsylvania on June 28, 1957. While at Temple, he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship, earned an M.S. in pharmacology, and became Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of Anesthesia Research. He also served as Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Drexel Institute of Technology.

In 1976, he moved to Madison, WI, where he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Department of Anesthesiology. He became Director of Anesthesia Research and was active in research, teaching and clinical practice. His research exploring the effects of various anesthetics on heart function was supported by continuous NIH grants for many years. Ben published dozens of articles in prominent medical journals.

Dr. Ben Rusy's daughter and grandsonHe spent a year on sabbatical in London, England practicing anesthesia and doing research in the field at University College London. In 1988, he became Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, serving until his retirement in 1997. He was an active member of the Association of University Anesthesiologists (AUA), an organization he had the upmost respect for, and the Society of Academic Anesthesia Chairs, (SAAC).

Ben Rusy was passionately involved in the education of anesthesia residents, both in and out of the operating room, influencing their academic advancement and professional future. Hundreds of anesthesia residents were trained under his watch, resulting in a legacy of anesthesiologists whose patient care model and devotion to the science of anesthesia was superlative.

In retirement, Ben focused on family. He and Anita enjoyed their summers on North Bay in Door County, where they lived in a house they built on land purchased by Ben’s grandfather in 1927. He loved the woods and waters of Door County and enjoyed sailing and projects in his workshop. A strong and quiet man, he was extremely kind and gentle. He was a loving and attentive husband, a patient and supportive father, a beloved grandfather, and a fond great-grandfather.

He is survived by, and his presence truly missed, by his wife, Anita; his four daughters, his eight grandchildren, and his four great-grandchildren. Two of his daughters (Drs. Deborah and Lynn Rusy) and a grandson (Dr. Ben Schessler) have followed in his footsteps as academic anesthesiologists.


Deborah Rusy, MD, MBA, FASA
Professor of Anesthesiology
University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health
Madison, Wisconsin