Stephen Miller, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist who specializes in fetal/prenatal cardiology, pediatric cardiac imaging, and general pediatric cardiology. He is director of the Duke Fetal Cardiac Imaging Program, and sees both prenatal and pediatric patients in Fayetteville, Cary and Durham. He particularly enjoys forming lasting relationships with pediatric patients and their families, and watching them grow over time.
How did you first get interested in medicine? What made you decide to pursue cardiology in particular?
I have been interested in science and biology ever since I was a young kid. For a while I wanted to be a scientist, work in a laboratory, etc., but I became somewhat more interested in medicine towards the end of high school. I was a biology major and did some laboratory-based biology research in college, and this experience convinced me that life in a lab was not for me. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I like to talk and interact with people, so medicine seemed like the ideal combination of science, biology, and personal communication / relationships.
While I was in medical school at Penn State, I did a four week elective with the pediatric cardiologists there. I found that I was fascinated by the heart in general, but also by the developmental abnormalities that comprise most of what we deal with in congenital heart disease. In addition, I quickly found that I “fit in” well with pediatric cardiologists and admired their work ethic, dedication to their patients, and attention to detail. Because of this I intentionally pursued residency at a program with a well regarded pediatric cardiology and CT surgery program (the Cleveland Clinic). Further time in cardiology there reinforced my appreciation for both the subspecialty and the people involved.
What brought you to Duke?
My residency at CCF was directly involved with my ultimate decision to come to Duke after I concluded my pediatric cardiology training in San Francisco. One of the cardiologists while I was in Cleveland (John Rhodes) was very influential in my overall training, and he subsequently left Cleveland and came to Duke, ultimately being the division chief here. Therefore, when I was finishing my training, I contacted him for some advice on my job search, not really expecting there to be a position for me here. I was incorrect - he recruited me here, and I have been here ever since (this is year 12!). Additionally, my family and I wanted to come back to the east coast from California, and North Carolina was a great fit for that as well.
What’s one thing you wished more of your patients knew about heart conditions or medicine in general?
In general, I would like the overall public to know how frequent congenital heart disease is (its the most frequent birth defect) in the overall population.
For my patients specifically, especially those with complex disease, it is hard to imagine teaching them more than they already know. In fact, I think they probably teach me as much as I teach them. The kids and families that have to manage congenital heart disease are an inspiring group of people; they are dealing with life-changing diagnoses, surgeries, hospitalizations, etc. and watching how the patient and their family deal with all the issues and ultimately overcome them is very impressive. I am absolutely certain that I am a better person because of my involvement with all of my patients and their families.
What are your responsibilities within the Department of Pediatrics/Duke Children’s? What does a typical day for you look like?
I fulfill several different roles within Pediatric Cardiology at Duke Children’s, and therefore, I do not really have a “typical” day, as they change frequently.
In no particular order:
- I see outpatient cardiology patients at both our Fayetteville and Cary offices several days / week. This involves outpatient pediatric and fetal consults and follow up, interpreting and reporting echocardiograms and ECGs for my patients, and interacting with community pediatricians, hospitals and clinics. I am also the practice Medical Director of both the Fayetteville and Cary offices, and therefore, am involved in clinic management, operations, strategic planning, etc. for those clinics.
- I consider myself an echocardiographer, and as such, I read and interpret echocardiograms in the Pediatric Echo Lab 1-2 days per week. This also involves teaching the sonographers and fellows, and also performing transesophageal studies in the operating room when needed. I also help read and report on echo studies performed at other institutions such as Cape Fear Valley, Southeastern Regional, Scotland Memorial, and other hospitals as well.
- In addition to the above roles, I also am the Director of our Fetal Cardiology program. In this capacity, I am responsible for oversight of our Fetal Cardiology clinic at the Fetal Diagnostic Center, maintaining our fetal imaging protocols and teaching the sonographers and fellows about fetal cardiology and physiology. I also oversee the delivery planning of our prenatal patients who will be delivering their infants at Duke, and try to ensure that we work closely with obstetrics, CT surgery, neonatology, and other subspecialties involved in the management of these patients.
- Lastly, I also spend several weeks on the inpatient Pediatric Cardiology service each year as well.
So therefore, each day is different. As an example, here is next week:
Monday - performing fetal cardiology studies and consultations in the FDC
Tuesday - reading studies in the Peds Echo lab and OR / Cath lab
Wednesday - Pediatric Cardiology clinic in Fayetteville
Thursday - Pediatric Cardiology clinic in Cary
Friday - Combined Pediatric / Fetal clinic in Cary
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of work?
I most enjoy spending time with my family, which includes my wife Vicki, and my three children: Julia (15), Megan (12) and Nathan (9). As expected, much of my free time is spent being involved with their various activities. Outside of that, I really enjoy music, both listening live and on my audio system at home. I also enjoy reading nonfiction books (nerdy type science stuff especially) and cooking.
Listen to what Steve's colleagues are saying
“I can’t say enough not only about Steve’s clinical acumen but his willingness to call an oversight to my attention in a timely fashion and to sort out the correct diagnosis. I have always considered him an outstanding cardiologist (and person) and an invaluable colleague.”