Nothing Short Of Legendary

by Dr. Mike Cruz
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

He may not be a household name, but the small-town boy from Monticello had big things in store for central Illinois.

Legends are easy to recognize in the world of sports. Few would argue that Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Walter Payton were larger than life. The music industry also holds its share of superstars, and Hollywood produces actors they say will never be forgotten.

Legends come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, colors and backgrounds. And they don’t just sing, act and play ball—sometimes, they save lives.

Coming to Peoria
If you heard the name Dr. Tim Miller, would you recognize it? Maybe. Maybe not. Would you think to yourself: that man’s a legend? Probably not. But he is.

Dr. Tim Miller is a neonatologist, and what he’s accomplished at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is nothing short of legendary. He was hired in 1973 as the Director of Nurseries and quickly began expanding newborn care at what was then called Children’s Hospital.

Leading up to his hire, administrators knew they wanted to grow the hospital and make it a leading medical and teaching facility. To that end, they forged an alliance—which still exists today—with the Peoria School of Medicine, now known as the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. This plan solidified the continued growth of both Saint Francis and Children’s Hospital.

Enter Dr. Tim Miller. After arriving, he quickly founded the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). What this meant for the area was a level of care for infants not seen before. At the time, families routinely traveled to Chicago or St. Louis for the type of care Peoria was now able to provide. This was largely done by Miller himself. He was the only show in town, so to speak, in this arena.

A Twist of Fate
Neonatology was a new sub-specialty at the time; even Dr. Miller hadn’t planned to enter the field. A twist of fate is the reason he is here today. After finishing medical school in Chicago, he deployed to Vietnam as a general medical officer. While in the Army, he met another doctor who happened to be from Peoria. That doctor convinced Miller to check out a pediatric program at Children’s Hospital. He did, and he liked it—so much so, that he left to study neonatology in Kentucky before coming back.

In those early days, necessity was the mother of invention. When faced with the challenge of keeping these premature babies alive, Dr. Miller and a colleague adapted an adult respirator with rubber tubing so it could be used on NICU patients. With that problem out of the way, the NICU was now able to perform life-saving surgeries that were impossible before.

Since then, Dr. Miller has left his mark on the hospital in many areas. After 22 years leading the NICU, he stepped into new shoes… those of Chief Medical Officer. He was now the interface between the hospital’s credentialed doctors and the administrative team. By the time he left that position earlier this year, he oversaw more than 800 doctors, several hundred Advanced Practice Nurses, and more than 200 residents. He also grew the academic physician training program by leaps and bounds—a goal of administrators when he was hired way back when.

Wealth of Knowledge
Now, he’s been at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center for 43 years... and he’s still working. His current role is that of Director of Academic Affairs. The hospital is still a teaching facility, but the focus has shifted. The goal now is to extend the training of our doctors into the other 10 hospitals under the OSF banner, thereby creating well-rounded physicians. These students will have studied in the fifth largest hospital in the state, as well as others in rural settings.

It’s unclear when Dr. Miller’s time here will end, but it will be a sad day. He’s a wealth of knowledge about our Sisters and their Mission, and he understands how important it is for OSF to be connected to education. He may not be a household name, but the small-town boy from Monticello had big things in store, and central Illinois has certainly benefitted from that. iBi

Dr. Mike Cruz is president of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.