Hugh Miller, my long-time friend and associate, was a very special man. Until his retirement we shared a single desk in the same office. His talents were so broad that many have referred to him as a Renaissance man. He was certainly an extremely successful orthopaedic surgeon but, more than that, his knowledge in the fields of music, art, and nature were unequalled in our orthopaedic community. Hugh was a master with his hands, whether it was using a scalpel in the operating room, tools in his workshop, a brush on canvas, or a pen on paper.
His career achievements were outstanding. After graduating from UBC in 1947, he attended McGill Medical School and graduated MD, CM in 1952. He returned to BC for his orthopaedic residency and became FRCSC in 1958. In the days when the Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department was mostly run by house staff, Hugh, as chief resident, demonstrated extraordinary leadership in handling the many casualties after the 1958 collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge. He developed an interest in emergency medicine and trauma, and was awarded the prestigious McLaughlin Scholarship that took him to Europe and around North America to gain further expertise in that field. He returned and became director of the VGH Emergency Department in 1960. During the 25 years that he held that position, he organized the department’s moves from Heather to Centennial Pavilion and finally to its present home in the Laurel Pavilion. His leadership was the reason that residents and students universally rated their time in his department as the best learning experience in their whole training. He supported and helped lead the transition that resulted in the new specialty of emergency medicine. Countless patients have benefited from his legacy. His knowledge was appreciated by outside organizations that sought his expertise as a consultant, including the armed forces, police departments, and the GVRD.
Hugh was one of the most popular consultants with the orthopaedic residents. His gentle, calm, yet confident manner contrasted with some of the other teachers. He would help a resident develop the all-important quality of self-confidence in a way that few others could.
Hugh’s organizational skills were never better illustrated than when he chaired the committee to organize the 1990 Annual Canadian Orthopaedic Association meeting in Vancouver. Participants from all over the world marveled at the superb arrangements that Hugh oversaw. Even today, people describe it as the best meeting in the association’s long history.
Perhaps Hugh’s greatest gift was his ability with people. How one can achieve so much, for so long, without making a single enemy is a testament to his unique personality. Everyone—his teachers, his colleagues, his students, his patients, and of course his wonderful family—loved Hugh Miller. Perhaps the secret to his success was his marriage and his family. Hugh’s wife, anesthesiologist Dr Mary Miller, had a very successful career of her own and also practised at VGH. Together they raised four very successful children. At a recent celebration of their father’s life, Duncan (also a physician), Lisa, John, and Hamish displayed many of the great qualities of their father as they charmed the crowded room with some special stories. We will miss our friend and colleague, but it is clear that Hugh’s spirit lives on in his children, and we should all be thankful for that.