Dr. Steven Z. Miller Honored Posthumously with AAP Education Award

Emergency Medicine Pediatrician Pioneered Numerous, Widely Adopted Teaching Methods for Medical Students

Oct 24, 2005


The late Dr. Steven Z. Miller, the much beloved and respected associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of Emergency Medicine at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, has been honored with the 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Education Award. Presented at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition (NCE) in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2005, the award recognizes Dr. Miller's lifelong commitment to and legacy of substantially improving medical student education and humanism across the United States. Dr. Miller was a fellow of the AAP.

The late Dr. Richard T. Sarkin of the State University of New York at Buffalo will also receive this year's award. Dr. Miller and Dr. Sarkin, both Arnold P. Gold fellows, promoted the concepts of humanism and professionalism in medicine around the country. They died in a plane crash on October 19, 2004, en route to making a presentation to Kirksville Osteopathic School in Kirksville, Ohio.

"An extraordinary human being and enthusiastic and energetic advocate for humanism in medicine, Steve taught a generation of students to treat with compassion, to be attuned to the needs of patients and their families, and committed to improving the health and lives of children," says Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"His unique and captivating talent for teaching changed the way medicine is taught and practiced," says Dr. John Driscoll, Reuben S. Carpentier professor of Pediatrics, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, and pediatrician-in-chief for Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "As this award attests, Dr. Miller will be remembered for his numerous educational innovations and have a lasting and positive national impact, substantially improving medical student education across the United States."

"Steve dedicated his life to improving medical student education. He was tireless in his efforts to ensure that medical students became compassionate and thoughtful people, as well as outstanding physicians. He was involved with medical students throughout their four years, preparing them for each step of the journey. He successfully demonstrated the ability to teach empathy," says Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president of Columbia University Medical Center. "Steve had the unquantifiable ability to communicate, to inspire and to lead. It is this devotion and commitment that earned Steve tremendous recognition."

Dr. Miller was a six-time recipient of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) Teacher Award, recipient of the Columbia University Presidential Teaching Award, and a national finalist in the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) prize for outstanding teacher.

"Steve was prolific in his endeavors to create a superior educational environment for medical students during all four years of school," says Dr. Meridith Sonnett, assistant clinical professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and acting director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian.

As a chair of numerous education committees at P&S, Dr. Miller developed the medical school curriculum in areas including clinical reasoning, professionalism, humanism, and teacher-student accountability. He also created what is now known as the Steven Z. Miller Student Clinician Ceremony for second and third-year medical students. Now part of the culture of approximately 50 medical schools, the ceremony helps link the pre-clinical and clinical years and serves as a time for second year students to rededicate themselves to humanism and professionalism as they enter the third year clerkships and for students to officially recognize residents who were essential to their success as third year students.

Dr. Miller broadly and regularly presented his innovative initiatives locally and nationally, helping other Universities incorporate his ideas. His active participation in running educational sessions and workshops was highly sought after in the national medical education arena. He was an expert in many areas and presented broadly on many topics: traditional medical curriculum, clinical reasoning curriculum, feedback on medical education, and humanism in medicine. As one example, his Clinical Reasoning Curriculum, which teaches a well-structured approach to developing a differential diagnosis, was disseminated nationally.

Dr. Miller was particularly committed to the idea of humanism in medicine. He created and designed an innovative curriculum that approaches clinical practice by integrating the epidemiological and behavioral sciences, with emphasis on the doctor-patient relationship. Within this context, he developed a curriculum to teach communication and listening skills with an emphasis on understanding the multiple perspectives of everyone involved in the clinical transaction: the patient, the family, the physician and other members of the health-care team. He was able to break down and define the skills necessary to teach listening and empathy to beginning medical students. He also developed and maintained a Web site devoted to humanism in medicine (http://humanism-in-medicine.org), which collected the experiences students, resident, attendings, and patients with the aim that everyone can learn from each other. Finally, he led an effort to create a national honor society for students who excel in demonstrating the humanistic aspects of medicine.

About Dr. Steven Z. Miller

Dr. Steven Z. Miller graduated from Columbia College in 1980 and from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) in 1984. A member of the Columbia pediatrics faculty since 1993, Dr. Miller won numerous prestigious awards over the years for his outstanding teaching skills. These awards included the Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teacher (2001) and the Charles W. Bohmfalk Award (1999), honoring him as the best clinical instructor. His students also recognized him for his extraordinary teaching skills, naming him "Teacher of the Year" on numerous occasions.

Dr. Miller was Chair of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association (APA) Special Interest Group (SIG) on Medical Student education. Among many roles played as SIG chair, Dr. Miller represented the APA on an interdisciplinary Family Medicine Grant to develop a pre-clinical curriculum and standardized teaching tools for feedback and physical examination. Dr. Miller was also a long-time member of the Executive Committee for the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP) and President in 2004. As President, Dr. Miller was leading the development of a Pediatric Clerkships national curriculum. Additionally, Dr. Miller was the editor of the COMSEP Journal Review, amassing and summarizing each year's most notable articles and developments in the education field.