Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura (Wellington) Miller

millerName:  Laura (Wellington) Miller, MD

UR Major:  Biology

Other UR Majors/Minors: Medical Anthropology

Additional Education: MD from Drexel University College of Medicine, 2009, currently pursuing Masters in Public Health (executive MPH program) from the University of MN

Current City, State of Residence: Minneapolis, MN

Job Title: Faculty Physician, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program

Employer: University of Minnesota

Family: married to Zach Miller, step-daughter Jersey Miller (age 6)

Community Activities: board member of Risk Management Committee, YMCA Camp Widjiwagan; organizer/advisor of Underserved Medicine Track at North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program, lead professor of India public health study abroad experience Jan 2013, University of MN; monthly volunteer preceptor at Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, through U of MN Medical School; active participant MN United (organization to defeat anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota); active member Homeless Healthcare Coalition, U of MN; faculty advisor Global Health Track, U of MN

How did you choose your major(s)?

I loved biology in high school and had an inspiring teacher for all three years that I took biology during high school.  I loved the logic, loved being able to understand the world around me.  Also, I knew I was headed toward medical school, so I was particularly interested in the human applications of biology.  Medical anthropology, my minor, was an interest because I have always known that I wanted to work internationally, and I felt compelled to start trying to understand other health care systems and perspectives.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them? 

I worked in a lab at Strong Memorial Hospital and LOVED it.  I worked in Dr. Quivey’s lab, studying the bacteria that causes dental cavities.  I learned a lot about bench research, knew that it was not a future career for me, but feel so lucky to have learned so much from that experience.  I also spent my summers guiding 3-7 week white-water canoeing trips through an organization in Minnesota.  I would highly advise not ONLY doing activities that are directly related to your major.  I got a great deal out of my summers guiding wilderness trips and know it has added to me tremendously as a physician.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

Honestly, I wish I had known for certain that my career path would unfold in a wonderful way.  Many mentors and supporters reassured me of this, but it is so hard to truly believe this when you are working so hard to obtain your goals.  I also wish I would have known how flexible I could make my path within my career.  I took a year off during medical school and lived in Peru, South America, working and volunteering.  It was an incredible experience, one I will never forget and has added to my life in innumerable ways.  Actively seeking experiences such as these should be encouraged for young students, whatever their interests are.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

I took a year off after college and worked and I am so thankful that I did.  Graduate school is very intense (I went to medical school), so I needed the year to take a breather, travel, earn some money and feel autonomous and prepare myself for the rigors of entering another four solid years of education.   I am so thankful I did that, as well as the year I took off during medical school (between 3rd and 4th year).  I highly recommend taking time off.

What was your first job after graduation? What college experiences prepared or qualified you for that position?

After graduating from college, I worked as a medical assistant in a family medicine clinic in Rochester for a year.  It was a great job for me – allowed flexibility along with some stability, I enjoyed seeing my future career first-hand without being in school, and I got to learn so much from my surroundings.  I did not have any specific qualifications for the job, I knew someone who had worked there and she referred me.  I learned everything I needed by being there.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I am a family physician and faculty member at a family medicine residency program in Minneapolis, MN.  I decided that I wanted to be a doctor when I was young (age 13, I think) because of a mentor of mine.  I chose family medicine because I enjoy treating the entire patient, instead of individual parts.  I also really get a lot out of developing relationships with patients.  I chose my career because I wanted to have many different aspects to my job, including outpatient clinic, inpatient hospital medicine, practicing obstetrics, and teaching.  In 5 years, I hope to be still working in academics, finished with my MPH, continuing to develop avenues to work in underserved and international health areas.  I love where I work and hope I am still there with many of the same colleagues.