Prioritizing Education

Kala Sue Bush (’79) knows a thing or two about healthcare. She spent 40 years working in healthcare finance. She also spent a month in an intensive care unit fighting for her life with sepsis four years ago.

“The doctors gave me a 5% chance,” she said. “Every day, I feel blessed to be alive.”

As Kala Sue reflects on her many blessings, an education from the University of Rio Grande tops the list.

“Rio was never the plan,” she said, “but it became my foundation. Rio was there for me.”

Kala Sue Bush

Kala Sue wasn’t a traditional student when she arrived at Rio Grande in the fall of 1976. She had attended a quarter at Miami University on a full scholarship and two quarters at the University of Toledo before her marriage ended, leaving her alone with two babies. Despite the adversities, Kala was laser-focused on earning her education.

“Rio was the catalyst I needed to change my life,” she said. “I was a non-conventional student, driven to get my accounting degree. Suddenly, I had two babies to feed. Rio wasn’t just a safety net; it was a lifeline.”

As a commuter student, Kala Sue did what needed to be done to get her degree. There were some fun times, like Grande Chorale, but she also studied in her car and worked long hours to cover tuition. Through it all, Kala Sue was inspired by phenomenal teachers and professors like Carol Easley, who influenced her academic growth and welcomed her with open arms. Carol also set her on a path to professional success after graduation.

“In 1982, I was working days at a regional CPA firm and teaching at Gallia County Business College at night when I got a call from Carol, who was then CFO of a multi-county ambulance company,” she said. “Carol was looking to hire students, and I said what about me?”

Kala Sue went to work for Carol, preparing financial statements, budgets, taxes and payroll. It was there she discovered a passion for healthcare finance. That led to four decades in healthcare reimbursement, which included employment with OhioHealth, Trinity Health and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“This was not glamorous work,” she said. “It was the geekiest job in all of healthcare finance, but I added tens of millions to the bottom lines of the health systems where I worked. I compliantly optimized how the government paid the hospitals.”

Today, Kala Sue enjoys a comfortable, well-earned retirement. Those two babies she brought to Rio earned doctoral degrees: Abra Bush is the Dean of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and Larae Schraeder founded Schraeder Law, LLC, an estate planning and elder law practice in Columbus.

Kala is far from finished, though. She still does the accounting for her daughter’s firm and helps people choose the right Medicare plans as a volunteer for the Ohio Department of Insurance.

“It is a wonderful life,” she said. “And it was all because of a strong work ethic and a degree at Rio Grande. Rio gave me that foundation.”