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Class of 2024 Graduate Profile: Joseph Miller

March 20, 2024
Class of 2024 graduate Joseph Miller

Joseph Miller, who is about to graduate from the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, grew up in Laurelville, Ohio. He graduated from Miami University with a double major in biology and premedical studies and a minor in ethics. He matched in neurology at The Ohio State University. His interests are in neuroimmunology and epilepsy, and he hopes to pursue a fellowship.

Q: What was your childhood like? Who were your inspirations? Was there anything critical that happened that brought you to this point in life? 

Joe Miller: As the second oldest of nine children who grew up in rural Ohio, there was always something fun to do from building forts on our land, riding motorcycles and playing baseball and football in our yard. I was homeschooled throughout the majority of my life and attended public school only for my high school years, so our summers were frequently spent working various construction jobs. As a child, I read a lot and watched movies. So, I think my biggest inspirational figures came from these settings. One of the figures that was especially meaningful to me was Vincent Freeman from the movie Gattaca. In the movie, Vincent comes from a disadvantaged identity compared to his competitors but has big dreams and wrestles with imposter syndrome throughout the movie. Regardless of his disadvantaged background, he achieves his dreams, and I think this reflects my journey in medicine to this point. 

What led you to medical school? 

I knew from an early age that I enjoyed helping others and had a passion for science of all sorts but especially for medical science. At an early age, my grandfather had a heart attack, and, since we were homeschooled, we were able to spend time at the hospital. His cardiologist explained the vascular system as a central train station with train tracks that ran throughout the body to deliver supplies to the rest of the body. This was fascinating to me as a young boy who was already interested in how the human body worked. I would say this was the integral moment where I decided to pursue medical school. 

What was the most impactful experience you had while in medical school? 

Early in my first year of medical school, I had my first tonic-clonic seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and a large arachnoid cyst. This complicated the first year of school as my neurologist and I worked on figuring out the correct combination of antiseizure medications and losing my driving privileges. Thankfully, there were multiple individuals at OUHCOM who were there to provide support when needed and were in my corner from the get-go. While this was a life-changing diagnosis, it was also a significant factor in why I found my passion for the field of neurology, and I look forward to caring for patients with similar conditions to my own in the future. 

What was the most important lesson you learned while in medical school? 

I would say that the most important lesson I learned in medical school is when to say no or not right now. Medical school and medicine are filled with opportunities to engage in new opportunities and pick up additional obligations; however, if these obligations aren’t in line with your true interests/passion and were instead accepted to pad a CV or due to feeling pressured, they may quickly add up and contribute to burnout. Instead, I found it very valuable to assess whether the opportunity was something that I was genuinely passionate about and whether I could contribute significantly to the position given my current obligations. If either of these were a no, I would politely decline as the opportunity would add additional stress and may interfere with my performance in other realms. 

Were you involved in research? If so, could you share more about what you worked on? 

I was heavily involved in research both during a gap year prior to medical school and during medical school. Prior to medical school, I worked as a clinical research coordinator with the rheumatology and immunology department at OSU where we were working on identifying biomarkers for fibromyalgia in patients’ serum using spectroscopy and elucidating the role of various autoantibodies in autoimmune conditions. In medical school, I first worked as a musculoskeletal research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with an HCOM alum where we developed a novel classification system for pediatric lateral condyle fractures that could be used without arthroscopy and examined the utility of physical therapy for these types of injuries. Early in the pandemic, I began working on projects examining the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with multiple sclerosis on B-cell depleting therapies and the adherence to best practices in epilepsy telemedicine visits for pediatric patients. Most recently, I finished a collaborative project with SNMA colleagues that examined disparities in epilepsy diagnosis and management in high-income countries and have begun collecting data for a project I received grant support for that examines the demographic variability of multiple sclerosis and any factors that may contribute to diagnostic delay. 

What are you most excited about for your future? 

I am excited to be entering a field that will allow me to care for patient populations that I am most passionate about, to have the opportunity to continue research that will improve neurologic care for disadvantaged populations and expand our knowledge of these conditions, to join a group of physicians that I identify with, to contribute to the future of medicine by working with and educating medical students and to continue serving the communities in Ohio that have contributed to the person and soon-to-be physician that I am today. 

Who has helped you along the way? Is there anyone you want to recognize? 

As a first generation medical graduate, I would not be where I am today without the guidance and advocacy provided by those who have come before me. Dr. Fran Blais and Andrea Brunson were invaluable resources during my preclinical years who helped me acclimate to the medical school landscape and helped set me up for success early on. Dr. Tirisham Gyang at Ohio State has been a unwavering advocate for my success in neurology and has provided countless opportunities in research that have allowed me not only to pursue my passions but also offered early networking opportunities with local and national leaders in the field. Finally, without the support of friends and family with special mention to my brother Isaiah and wife, Haley, these accomplishments would have been much more difficult if not impossible.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Haley, and dogs, Huck and Finn. I enjoy hiking and traveling and am currently on a mission to visit all of the U.S. national parks. I’ve visited 18 of 63 and take any opportunity I can to knock another off the list. I also enjoy cooking and started craft brewing with some friends during my first year of medical school which were great passive hobbies for medical school. 

What didn’t we ask that you’d like to share? 

For the incoming and present HCOM students, I would like to emphasize the importance of remaining open throughout your medical education. You may come in thinking that you are interested in X specialty but you may fall in love with another specialty and if you aren’t willing to change your original goals, you may artificially isolate yourself to something that may not be your true passion. Additionally, I would be remiss to not reiterate to HCOM students the importance of considering the social determinants of health when providing care on clinical rotations and in your future as providers. Medicine can get very busy and the consideration of the factors can become an afterthought if you let them, but they may be the primary factor standing between your patient and optimal outcomes. So, for the sake of your patients, please address these factors where possible.