Look at a Leader: Elisa Illing, MD

Science and medicine go hand-in-hand so it didn’t surprise Dr. Elisa Illing’s parents when she decided to become a doctor, even though the Kokomo native had originally opted to become an engineer. Dr. Illing had attended Purdue as an undergraduate with the plan to become a chemical engineer. “I loved the scientific components of that occupation but ended up deciding that I also wanted a career with more human interaction. One where I could see the direct impact of my work on a daily basis,” Dr. Illing recalls, “and that led me to medicine.”

After completing medical school at Indiana University, Dr. Illing headed South to take part in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Otolaryngology residency program. Rhinology and anterior skull base surgery became her area of interest. “I ultimately completed my fellowship in rhinology” she explains, adding that training in the South (where the weather is warmer longer) enabled her to help patients suffering from a wide spectrum of sinus and allergy issues.  

Today, the young doctor continues that focus—specializing in rhinology and skull base surgeries at IU Health’s Methodist Hospital. Dr. Illing has been on staff as a surgeon for a year.

What drew her to IU Health: “The range of patients I can see from across the state is wonderful,” explains Dr. Illing, “and our otolaryngology program has amazing leadership.”

The program’s chair, Dr. Marian Couch, she says, has served as a strong female mentor to her both personally and professionally. “Currently, there are only about three female otolaryngology chairs across the country and Dr. Couch is one of them. Dr. Couch is an accomplished surgeon and researcher, as well as a wife and mother, so it is helpful to have her to model after when thinking about my own goals. She’s a very supportive resource.”

When she’s not on the clock, Dr. Illing enjoys cherished time with her family and friends (her parents still reside in Kokomo). In addition to her husband, who works as a neuroradiologist in private practice, Dr. Illing is also the mother of a three year old son, one year old daughter and the proud owner of two boxer dogs. “We are a music loving family, so in our off-time we enjoy attending live concerts and around the city. I also adore reading and frequently do so for work and for pleasure,” she says.

In the interim, Dr. Illing says the biggest perk of her job is interacting with patients. “I love improving the quality of other people’s lives through my work every day. It’s a feeling that never gets old.”

-- By Sarah Burns


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