Dr. Margaret Rush, Connecticut's Sages

October 6, 2022


Through a peer and manager nomination process, the Sages of Clinical Service Award recognizes UHG's most exceptional clinicians. 

About 150 people receive this honor every year, quite a notable feat, considering UnitedHealth Group's over 57,000 eligible licensed medical professionals.

Five ProHealth Physicians primary care clinicians were nominated this year, and one—Dr. Margaret Rush—was granted the honor. 

As stated in her nomination, Margaret Rush, the physician, "is defined by her honesty and integrity. A select few rise to the top as exemplary leaders who deserve the honor of the Sage Award. Dr. Rush is one of them." 

When asked about her decision to pursue medicine, two leading forces stand out. First, the conviction that, despite our apparent differences, there is more uniting than separating us. Second, a strong yearning for independence and autonomy. 

It takes very little time with her to understand why.


When asked about her decision to pursue medicine, two leading forces stand out. First, the conviction that, despite our apparent differences, there is more uniting than separating us. Second, a strong yearning for independence and autonomy. 

"I did not go to medical school solely to help people get better from an illness—she begins—I went because in second grade I saw a photograph of three Australian Aboriginal women in traditional dress. 

They were carrying large baskets with water. My teacher, came over and said, 'isn't that interesting how different they are?' I looked at the picture for a long time. I could not see what she meant. 

In my 7-year-old head I saw two arms, two legs, a head, walking. Their skin was darker than mine, but I had friends with all different-colored skin. Their clothing was brighter than mine, but I did not see why that was important.

In that moment I realized that the boundaries and walls we put up are just that. I could not understand why my teacher saw difference and I saw similarity. 


What has driven me since then is an unrelenting effort to treat every living thing with respect. A belief that we are all far more similar than different."

Early experiences are behind her search for independence and self-reliance. "When I was young my perception was that dependency could lead to desperation. It could lead to struggle. I grew up moving a lot.

My mom is a nurse, but she felt dependent on men for security. This led to different relationships, marriages, and living with my grandparents for a period of time. 

None of this was necessarily bad from my point of view. I was loved. I had milk and chocolate chip cookies and learned how to play bridge really young, but my decision to choose medicine was born of wanting to have the ability to work anywhere. 

Have autonomy in my job. Have understanding of myself so as not to be reliant on anyone without conscious choice or effort.

I believe the more we are empowered and educated as individuals, the better choices we can make and the better people we can be and then the more we can help others." 

"I knew there were options" she quips. "I could become a hairdresser, maybe a plumber. Perhaps, an electrician or a car mechanic. 

Truthfully, I didn't consider these options seriously, but they were some of the professions I thought of that seemed to remain static despite time. Plus, I would make a terrible hairdresser!"

Her journey through medical school resembles that of many working mothers. "I was either pregnant or breastfeeding throughout medical school. 

I spent half of it nauseous, and the other half terrified I wouldn't get home in time to feed my babies. I became efficient and organized, but, in short, I was just very busy." 

While being a doctor is an important part of her life, Dr. Rush believes it does not define her. "I fear, by the time I am old, realizing that I have not lived enough. 

So, right now I am working on my Coast Guard Captain's license among other things. When I am not working, I spend all the time I can with my kids and partner.

I play tennis, sail, swim, ride horses. I read, hike, search for my next favorite IPA. I do not like to spend my free time cooking, so if someone does and wants to be my friend let me know."

Not surprisingly, this belief in self-development is at the core of her professional persona. "Being a doctor is fundamentally helping improve someone's physical and mental life. Much of this comes from time and self-empowerment to encourage better habits.

So, my advice would be to not only be a good physician but advocate for being a good human. Live your words. People can do WAY more than they think they can. They just need to be empowered and not judged. It must be both things. 

Most of the time all you need to do is listen, really listen. Not think about a counterargument or agenda. Not space out and pretend to be engaged. Just listen.

Then others will not be afraid to tell you who they are. Why they feel and think the way they do. And, in our line of work, how they need help. You can then help them more effectively, collecting kinship, respect, and some great stories along the way."

On the subject of COVID-19 and the toll the pandemic has taken on everyone, she has a disarmingly humorous response when asked for words of encouragement. 

"Relying on me for a pep talk is definitely a dubious idea." Her advice, however, is spot on. "I would say—and this is what I live by—have high standards and very low expectations. This way you are most often pleasantly surprised. 

Oh, wow, my kid washed that bowl AND put it back in the cupboard! My patient that struggles with alcohol is drinking one less beer per day. I'm delighted! Do not sweat the small stuff. Do not invite negative stuff. Turn off the TV or social media.

Consciously decide what you watch, read, engage with. In other words, live consciously. And do not worry about what you cannot control. This is hard. Our basic needs are simple. We often make life harder than it needs to be. Don't. " 

Regarding her status as a Sages Award winner, she enjoys the positive feedback. Notwithstanding, she is adamant about one thing: "I see it as a reflection that my colleagues value me, which is nice. However, I definitely want them to know I value them even more."