From the time Julius Miller was a teenager, he figured it was a given that he’d go into medicine. He’d not only grown up with it, but he had a natural affinity: his father, the distinguished physician Bernard H. Miller, who was Board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine, had established the Chesapeake Internists practice in 1958. The oldest of four children, the teenager worked in his father’s office during the summers. “Dad was a sole practitioner in those days, in the old Medical Tower,” Dr. Miller remembers. “I did some basic lab stuff for him; and in those days, when doctors routinely went to the hospital, I’d follow him around carrying his little black bag.”
He particularly enjoyed going to the hospital doctors’ lounge with his father. “There’d be 20, 30 docs sitting in the lounge talking,” he says, “and inevitably someone would say, ‘hey, I’ve got an interesting patient, want to come see him with me?’ And off they’d go. It was a very collegial atmosphere.” He especially liked being “on loan” to a pathologist friend of his dad’s one day each summer, where he learned both the discipline and skills that stood him in good stead when he later worked as a lab technician at Chesapeake General Hospital.
And yet, after graduating from Old Dominion University, he found he wasn’t ready to commit to medicine. He wanted to be sure it was right for him, so he began exploring other professional paths. Accounting, he recalls, was just too boring – and at 5’8”, he jokes that he wasn’t tall enough to be a professional basketball player.
So he enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia to do some graduate research, where he realized what he wanted to do. He attended and graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School. He calls himself lucky to have completed his residency at Jewish Hospital of St. Louis at Washington University, “one of the top places in the country,” he says. And where, he recalls, “you couldn’t get hospital privileges unless you had a subspecialty. You had to do internal medicine in the hospital.” Dr. Miller estimates his training was roughly 90 percent inpatient medicine. He had clinic one afternoon a week, and four weeks where he did outpatient clinics. “Internal medicine training was really hospital medicine,” he says, “and you either went into practice or you went into subspecialty medicine. I think the old fashioned internist is now what is becoming the hospitalist.”
That specialized training led to what he calls a defining moment: the decision to return to Virginia and work in his father’s practice. Twenty-two years later, he calls it “the best thing I ever did.”
Today, he divides his time among his full-time office practice with Chesapeake Internists, Ltd., his part-time work as a hospitalist at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, and his volunteer work at the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic. It sounds like a grueling schedule, but he finds it both manageable and fulfilling – primarily because while he enjoys inpatient medicine, he likes outpatient practice just as much.
As for the Free Clinic, he came to his association by a circuitous route. Several years ago, when his son was preparing for his bar mitzvah, Dr. Miller approached Dr. Juan Montero and asked if the clinic could use a young man who needed to do some community service. Dr. Montero said they would find something meaningful for the young boy to do. But as Dr. Miller says, “After a few times of dropping him off, I said, ‘hey, I should be doing this.’ So I did.
“Who goes to that clinic,” he asked himself? “It was the working poor – the people who work at the schools, in housekeeping, not full time, at WalMart, or in the cafeteria.”
Today, Dr. Miller’s son is 20 years old and a sophomore majoring in history at the University of Virginia, but Dr. Miller still volunteers at the Free Clinic, now proudly serving on its Board of Directors. “Ninety percent of those people are so happy you’re there to help them,” he says. “There are some sick people there – diabetes is rampant, high blood pressure is rampant. The place really needs to exist.”
He’d like to see more dental care available to the Clinic patients, and orthopaedic care as well. But he acknowledges that raising money for these clinics isn’t easy. “Cities are strapped, and can’t contribute as much,” he says. “We have wonderful volunteers – dentists, hygienists, doctors – but we always need more.”
Whether Dr. Miller is seeing patients who’ve been with his practice for years, or as part of his hospitalist duties, he cherishes them. “I feel like I’m their bartender; I’m like their trainer, their confidante – and I’m their friend,” he says, emphasizing that what he really enjoys is how much he learns from them. “I’ve learned about life in so many ways. They let you into their lives; you help them deal with illnesses, and you keep them healthy. There’s no greater honor.”
Dr. Miller lives in Chesapeake with his wife, Jeanne, a 13-year pediatric nurse practitioner at Tidewater Children’s Associates. Their son attends the University of Virginia, and their daughter, now 17, is a sophomore at Indian River High School.