Spending an entire career as a medical doctor serving one community is becoming increasingly rare.
Clinics are less frequently owned by the doctors who staff them, doctors themselves are more mobile, and as a result, fewer towns are as familiar with their doctors as Beaver Dam is with Dr. Joel Miller.
Miller was raised in Iowa and studied there until he came to UW–Madison to do his residency in 1992, as UW Health was expanding its clinics into Dodge County. He’s been there ever since, and he plans to enjoy the rest of his career where he began.
His dream, he says, was to be “an old-fashioned internist,” and he found that option in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He had met his wife when he was doing clinical rotations in Milwaukee, where she was working as a nurse.
…this is a small town, with strong and longstanding bonds that often involve multiple generations.
“We’ve made a lot of good friends here,” Miller says, “and I’m very likely to see my patients out and around town. The thing that comes to mind a lot is that this is a small town, with strong and longstanding bonds that often involve multiple generations.”
As he has for the past 15 years or so, Miller volunteers to treat poor, uninsured, or underinsured patients through a nonprofit clinic called Church Health Services. Thanks to his work and the work of fellow volunteers, the nonprofit has expanded over the years to include nine doctors and nurses, and it now offers dental, mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse services.
UW Health awarded Miller last year with its Community Service Award for his work with Church Health Services.
Miller, who also serves as a General Internal Medicine clinical associate professor at UW–Madison, says that an alarming issue, both at the volunteer clinic and in his regular practice, is the problem of heroin and opioid addiction.
“Epidemic is not too severe a word for it,” he says. “It’s a widespread problem we have to face.”