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As far back as she can remember, Dr. Judith Hruschka has never had a set career path in mind and has adapted and learned to roll with whatever comes her way.
“I haven’t had, ‘OK, this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.’ I’ve chosen a direction, then as things evolve, something else comes into play and I shift direction,” she said. “I’m just open to those opportunities. I like to problem-solve; I grew up on a farm and all farmers like to problem-solve. My dad was like that.”
Being able to problem-solve and think on her feet is something that is important in her line of work as a doctor of internal medicine.
“You have to deal with some things and come up with solutions that no one has come up with before because of the particular situation you’re in,” Hruschka said.
One of her main reasons for pursuing the career choice she did is because of her love of wanting to help others, something that started at a young age.
“I grew up in the Church of the Brethren,” Hruschka said. “One of the main missions (of the church) is service to others and I see that as part of my role as doctor, being able to help others.”
And after obtaining her medical degree at the age of 56, Hruschka felt she’d be able to relate to a majority of the patients she would see.
“I thought I would be able to relate well to most of the patients. Most of them – not all of them, but a lot of them – are elderly and I thought well, I think I’ll understand their problems better, I think I can relate well to them,” she said.
The Ada doctor, who has spent all 12 of her years practicing at Dr. Katherine Johnson’s office in Kenton, said she enjoys her job even though it can be exhausting work, both emotionally and physically.
“Of course as you get older, you don’t have as much reserve for that,” she said. “I’ve been able to manage what I’ve done, but I kind of wound down some of my duties.”
Prior to her duties as a doctor of internal medicine, Hruschka taught chemistry for 20 years at Ohio Northern University in Ada.
“I was always interested in chemistry, the biological side of it,” Hruschka said. “I really didn’t take much in college, but when I went to graduate school, I got a master’s in biochemistry. I went to Harvard and got my master’s and my first year was spent at the medical school taking an integrated course for graduate students interested in medical sciences, so I got a lot of exposure to it then.”
Before obtaining her master’s degree, Hruschka had majored in chemistry at Manchester College in Indiana.
Occupied with chemistry, medicine was not something at the top of her mind at the time.
“I think it was partly a matter of the culture at the time; there weren’t many women going into medicine at the time,” she said. “My sister, who is six years younger than I am, things had started to turn around at that time and she actually went to medical school right after college.”
But even with the peaked interest in chemistry, teaching wasn’t something Hruschka had in mind, at least not until she had met her apartment mate in Boston, Mass., while attending Harvard.
“I lived with another gal that was getting what is called a Master’s of Arts in teaching. I was very interested in what she was talking about in terms of teaching,” she said.
After deciding at the time not to spend the full seven years it took to get a doctorate and rather finish after two years with the master’s, Hruschka began applying for teaching jobs in the area. She eventually landed a job at Garland Junior College in Boston where she stayed for two years before getting married.
The two moved to Madison, Wis., where her husband had got accepted into graduate school. In the mean time, she got a job working in plant pathology at a lab.
The couple made yet another move, this time to College Park, Md., where Hruschka’s husband had received a job teaching at the University of Maryland. At that point, she had felt the urge to teach again.
She got a job at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., known to many as the school the Obama girls attend.
Little did Hruschka know at the time that she would teach high school chemistry to someone who would go on to make science fun for a generation of children all over.
“One of my students at Sidwell Friends was Bill Nye the Science Guy; I taught him his high school chemistry. That’s my one claim to fame,” she said. “He actually sent one of his books and autographed it about 10 years ago. That was fun.”
After the birth of her two sons and living in Florida for two years, Hruschka and her husband moved to Ada where she was hired to teach chemistry at ONU.
“It’s a challenging field, something new all the time,” she said. “You keep learning. It’s like medicine, actually. I like challenges.”
Hruschka, originally from Allen County and a graduate of LaFayette-Jackson High School, taught for 20 years at ONU.
Her desire to get back into the field of medicine came when she was a member of the Medical Science Advisory Committee at Ohio Northern.
Hruschka took a trip to Ohio State University for medical student/pre-med days where medical school is discussed.
“So I went down there because I was put on that committee, and when I was down there, that urge came back,” she said. “I had kind of been thinking I’d like to do something different.
“I have two sons and they were in college, and I just decided, ‘You know, I think I’d really like to go to medical school.’ I didn’t say I’d like to be a doctor, I said I’d like to go to medical school,” Hruschka continued. “So I took the test, I did an early admission interview at Ohio State and they accepted me.”
Now working in her home county, Hruschka said practicing in Kenton has allowed her to see an area of the county that she was never familiar with.
“I wasn’t really familiar with central-eastern Hardin County, so it’s been interesting for me to be in Kenton and learn more about the county that I’ve been a part of for 35 years,” she said.
When not working at the office, and when she has free time in between take-home paperwork, Hruschka can sometimes be found out in her garden where she grows flowers and vegetables in the summer.
Music has also been a large part of Hruschka’s life. While in College Park, Md., she played the recorder in a renaissance music group. She was also the organist at the Church of Christ in Ada, and with two pianos at her house, she hopes to one day get back to her music.
Hruschka and her husband also like to make their way each year out west to see their grandchildren.
“We try to get to see them at least four times a year. Most of the travel is by us going out there,” she said with a laugh.
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer