“Let me fix the batteries in my hearing aids….”
In 1997 Dr. Miller retired from a long and successful career as a cardiac surgeon, working from his private practice in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. For nearly 40 years Dr. Miller has seen cardiac procedures grow from early days of rudimentary treatment to precise state-of-the-art surgical techniques. I sat and watched Dr. Miller as he handled the batteries in his small hearing aid with a level of calm precision that can only come from decades of experience in the operating room.
“Now my glasses are fogged up.” He laughed, and continued the nimble task of maneuvering the tiny batteries into place. Even with foggy vision Dr. Miller hasn’t lost the steady hands that have brought delicate care to countless patients over his lifetime.
“At first I thought I wanted to be a preacher – to help people. After some thought I decided that I would rather be a doctor. I went into the Air Force as a base surgeon. I mainly did surgery on the appendix – with only a year of training. I was stationed at Drew Air Force base in a small village 60 miles west of Paris.”
Having grown up in the small agricultural town of Ryde Pennsylvania, Dr. Miller knew early on that he was being guided into the medical profession. His first choice was to be an OBGYN but due to program availability his options and curiosity drew him in the direction of cardiac medicine.
After attending primary schools in Ryde his medical studies didn’t take him too far from home. Dr. Miller’s education and training was primarily in the Pennsylvania area where he would eventually raise a family and go on to work in major hospitals and clinics on the east coast before deciding to open a private practice in Pittsburg.
“[My daughter] Rachael lives in Pittsburg. She’s a nutritionist and works with doctors who specialize in esophageal cancer….Jennifer is in Vermont and is the assistant to the school district superintendent. And Sara is a writer for the Christian Science Monitor and lives in Paris.”
In 2000 Dr. Miller started a new chapter in his life when he decided to remarry. His wife Sally was a neighbor of his in Pittsburgh and he knew from the moment they met that she was a match.
“We knew each other as neighbors. We met and I knew she was ‘it’ pretty quick. She was a fundraiser for Carnegie Mellon. She moved to San Diego and, well, I followed her. That’s when we married. We’re very compatible – a lot of the same interests.”
Love of theatre, art and books are just a few of the many interests that strengthen the bond between Dr. Miller and Sally. It’s their mutual love of life and people that seem to drive their relationship. A relationship that has lasted over 15 years.
“We love to travel. There are intelligent people all over the world. The people in New Zealand and Sydney are very friendly….We would go to the museums and ballet in New York. I was looking at my passport recently and the last place we went was Egypt….Education is also something we have in common. “
Education still plays a role in Dr. Miller’s life. Stacks of books and trade magazines can be found in his room. Always a student, he likes to keep up on the latest news and technology.
“I admit that technology is getting harder to understand. It’s advancing so quickly… I like to read the New Yorker. I’ve been reading that for years. I also like the New York Times. It seems to be the only decent news.”
And of course not too far away are medical journals where Dr. Miller likes to keep up with the latest in medical research. A lot has happened in cardiac surgery since he first set foot in medical school back in 1952.
“When I started training, open heart surgery was new and the mortality rate was at 50%. It was rough back then. The first greatest advancement was the invention of the pump…..”
With 18 years of retirement behind him Dr. Miller still speaks of his profession with the same bright-eyed enthusiasm as the kid from Ryde who wanted to “help people.” Dr. Miller may have passed on the opportunity to reach out to people’s souls as a preacher, but as a doctor, he went straight to their hearts.
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