Jason Miller, DPM, '97
By: Natalie Hart, FOX'19
Can you talk about your path to podiatry as a profession? Why you choose to pursue it and how you learned about the profession?
“I learned of the profession very early in life. My grandfather was a Tastykake salesman and spent a considerable amount of time on his feet supplying his stores/customers with Tastykakes. As a result, he had a variety of foot related problems. One thing I noticed was that after he went to the ‘foot’ doctor, he always was more upbeat and in a better mood. This wasn't true of his family doctor or cardiologist. They couldn’t do anything to make him immediately better like our profession could. When one thinks about this, the podiatric profession is one of the few that can perform simple procedures that provide immediate and in some cases, permanent relief. As for my path, it was Neal Kramer, DPM in Bethlehem who convinced me I was making the correct choice. I saw how well respected he was by his peers and the nursing staff at Muhlenberg Hospital (now part of LVHC). After shadowing orthopedists, a pediatrician, and family medicine, I knew podiatric surgery was the right blend of medicine and surgery for me.”
What was your favorite part of podiatry school and what was your favorite memory of podiatry school?
“I believe the comradery of the relationships developed with classmates and clinic group members was the most enjoyable. I attended TUSPM and roomed with one of my fraternity brothers and best friend, Marc Sabo. We made it through final exams by pranking other students in the school’s dorms. Some pranks were so elaborate that we involved other students outside our circle of friends and probably even did it at the expense of studying but it worked for us. Sanity before studious endeavors! In all seriousness, we had a great time but never lost focus of the final goal of becoming a doctor. Sometimes, in the darkest days of February during finals, that end goal can become lost from sight. Having a good support team to lighten the load is invaluable. Receiving medical education in Philadelphia makes you feel part of a venerable family of former and current students as the city is the cradle of modern medicine. Many famous and pioneering physicians from all specialties hail from institutions near TUSPM. There are more medical education schools and teaching hospitals in Philadelphia than any other city per capita, most of which have world wide reputations as leading institutions. I guess my favorite memory was graduation day knowing I had matched at the residency I desired surrounded by friends, colleagues and family. The culmination of years of expensive schooling finally leading to a paid position!”
What would be your advice to current and prospective students who are about to begin their journey into the profession?
“Prepare. If you are a poor test taker, take courses on exam taking skills. It will help you immensely if you come from an institution that utilizes essay type exams to learn how to take exams with multiple choice questions. At my undergrad, Moravian College, nearly all of my exams in pre-med biology were taken in blue books. Essay questions. Taking multiple choice tests was a challenge and I wasn’t prepared. I had an innate ability to explain myself in an essay but struggled with ‘K type’ questions that included ‘all of the above’ ‘none of the above’, ‘1,2,3’, etc. These questions have now been proven to be ineffective methods of evaluating students but they still exist to some extent. Also, prepare to embark on lifelong learning. The education never ends which in a way, is refreshing to stay current. Don’t fret over student loans, they will get paid. I see some young practitioners obsess so much over paying them off that they lose the best years of their life struggling to make ends meet. Set up a re-payment plan, auto deduct it from your accounts, and forget them. Without that investment, there would be no future reward. Enjoy yourself a bit while you are young knowing that they will be paid but be prudent with expenses and vacation time when you are attempting to establish yourself. The old adage ‘work hard, play hard’ applies.”
What have been your proudest accomplishments so far?
“Very early, I would have to say having the opportunity to be the inaugural chief resident of the 4 year Temple University Hospital residency and help begin that program at a 700+ bed Level 1 Trauma Center Hospital. The MD’s there literally had no idea what a DPM could do. They didn’t realize we had full licenses and DEA licenses. They thought maybe we just cut toenails and treated warts. When we started out performing high level ankle trauma and calcaneal fracture reconstructions, they took notice quickly. I was off service the first 3 months of the program so I made it a point to fully integrate myself with those residents and fellows in general surgery, vascular and plastics. I took call side by side with them and didn’t see the light of day in the month of July. It helped earn their respect that we were there to learn just as they were and weren’t less than them due to the initials behind our names. I was proud to be the first recipient of the PPMA Rising Star award in 2008 and a Temple University Gallery of Success recipient. I have since been named a Top Doctor every year since 2011 in the annual Main Line Today issue highlighting the docs who doctors send their friends and family to.”
Can you speak about the rewards and opportunities the profession has afforded you?
“All of the above plus being able to live a very comfortable lifestyle. I enjoy working in a large 75+ physician orthopedic practice and being able to help patients with a wide variety of lower extremity problems. I have enjoyed educating MD, DO, and DPM colleagues on various topics and speaking internationally. The reward of being able to spend quality time with my family cannot be overstated.”
What is your advice for students who are just beginning to work with patients?
“Treat each one like a member of your own family and you’ll never have an issue. This includes your attitude toward them and your procedure selection. Give them the best you have and stay current.”
What have been some of the hurdles you have been faced with and how have you overcome them?
“After leaving the city where our profession is afforded a much wider scope of practice in hospitals, it was foreign to me to see smaller, suburban hospitals push back when seeking ankle replacement and pilon fracture management privileges. Many orthopedic departments had never had a DPM request those type of advanced privileges and were unsure how to deal with it. Through my orthopedic partners, attending ortho dept. meetings and my relationships with other orthopedic staff, we were able to work through these disparities and prove the value a DPM can add to the trauma team. Actions speak louder than words and your quality work proves your value. Paoli Hospital actually went as far as having me highlighted on ABC-6 with Allie Gorman as one of my patients was the first MLHS patient to receive an ankle replacement in 2008.”
What are your future goals? What are you looking forward to the most?
“Developing better technology in orthopedic implants to better serve the needs of foot and ankle patients. I continue to see that foot and ankle implant technology has lagged behind other orthopedic hardware. Companies have noticed and have responded by listening to surgeons and utilizing our expertise to make designs better suited to specific pathologies. In the past, we relied on hardware adapted from other body parts for the foot and ankle. We made things work. A prime example was using plating systems for fibulas to fuse big toe joints. We had to bend them and make them do what we wanted. Often, the hardware would be prominent necessitating another surgery to remove it. Now the foot and ankle market has exploded and as companies see their bottom line going up due to our hard work, they are willing to re-invest in our field. I look forward to making an impact that helps patients for generations to come.”
And Lastly, is there anything you would like to add?
“I would like to acknowledge John Mattiacci, DPM for being a fantastic mentor throughout my career post graduation. Spending time with him, both professionally and socially, helped me understand the dynamic of our profession in ways I would have never known. He has been a tireless supporter of the profession and showed me much about work-life balance. I got to know his entire family and have been better for it. Lastly, my wife, Lauren for putting up with my endless travel and time away from home in order to pursue my desire to educate and develop. Without her, the family unit could not thrive. It brings up another point that a DPM must not only choose their work partners wisely but their life partners as well. I did very well on both!”
-Natalie Hart, FOX'19
***I'd like to thank Dr. Miller for his time and wonderful interview!***