Sunday, May 13, 2018

From Home to Medical School and Beyond, a Mother’s Support is Unending

By Sharon Holland, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

BETHESDA, Md. -- Whether an Army brat or Army officer, each one is proud to serve this nation. They are not a band of brothers, but a band of sisters. And they’ve already shared a common bond and lifetime of experiences.

Army Maj. (Dr.) Nicole Miller Vietor, Army 2nd Lt. Natalie Miller, and Michelle Miller, soon to be commissioned as an Army second lieutenant, have had the same leader and mentor their entire lives: their mother, Rose.

As a lifelong “squad” leader, champion and mother of three daughters, Rose Miller is a natural leader. Soon, her youngest daughter, Michelle, will follow in the footsteps of her siblings as she prepares to attend F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences here.

‘I Never Thought of Us as a Military Family’

Rose Miller came from a military family. Her father served during World War II, and she married an Army officer. But as mother to a trio of girls, she said, she never imagined military service for any of her children, let alone all three of them.

“My husband graduated from West Point and we spent five years in the military, but by time we had our three daughters, all that was behind us and we worked at corporate positions,” Rose said.  When she learned Nicole, the oldest, was looking at a career in the Army, Rose was surprised.

“At first I was shocked,” she said.  “And that happened with each one of my daughters. I never thought of us as a ‘military family,’ but the underpinnings were probably there all along. I’m sure that we somehow sent the message that military training was held in high esteem.”

The Path to Medical School

All of the sisters, who grew up in Chester, N.J., were interested in science, but none of them initially had her mind set on becoming a physician.

The eldest, Nicole, followed in her father’s footsteps and attended college at the U.S. Military Academy. While there, she shadowed medical staff at multiple military treatment facilities.

“Working with the active duty patients, family members and wounded warriors were some of my most rewarding moments at the academy,” she said, adding that she immediately knew military medicine was the career for her. “I couldn’t think of a better way to use my love of science and give back to the soldiers that sacrifice so much for our country than becoming a military physician.”

As an undergraduate student, Natalie worked in a laboratory focusing on the pathological and genetic changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

“When I took a service-learning course in undergraduate, I had the opportunity to volunteer in hospice. I got to personally meet and work with patients afflicted by the diseases I had been studying,” said Natalie, the second-eldest of the sisters.  “I felt so much reward when I combined basic science and clinical experience that I knew that becoming a physician was the career for me.”

Different Ideas

The youngest of the three sisters, Michelle, had different ideas. She didn’t want to be a doctor at first, saying it felt cliche to do what her older siblings do, but her mind changed while in college. Her most enjoyable experiences were shadowing and learning about her sisters’ careers during school breaks, she said.

“I took one physiology course that was one of the first steps towards being pre-med, and I knew I was hooked,” Natalie said. “The complexity of the human body fascinated me, and being able to make that into a career excited me. Human health is a very intimate aspect of a person’s life, and being able to take part in, and guide, an individual in their health made it an easy decision to pursue medicine.”

All of their paths led them to medical school at USU.  Nicole graduated in 2010, and Natalie will graduate on Armed Forces Day – May 19 – this year. Michelle starts school the first week of August.

“USU was a natural choice for me since I always planned on a career in the Army,” said Nicole, who is now an Army endocrinologist assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here and associate director of the endocrinology fellowship program.  “I wanted to get the best medical and military education possible, and USU was the place that could provide it.”

When Natalie decided to attend USU, she had two reasons in mind: excellence and respect. Not only does each student at the university represent excellence in several areas, including academics, athletics, and character, she said, but she also grew up with an enormous respect for the military. “I am honored to care for this population who sacrifices so much,” she added.

Michelle’s college classmates were leery of her plans to pursue a career in military medicine, but she saw it as an opportunity to care for a unique group of people dedicated to service, she said.  She was already familiar with the military, and saw it as more than an opportunity to be in a war zone.

Learning Beyond Education

Military medicine includes learning that goes beyond the normal medical school education, Michelle said. It includes leadership training as well as developing critical thinking skills under pressure. “It is an honor to serve those who chose a life of service, together creating a group of people working towards something bigger than themselves,” she explained.

The sisters’ “squad leader” encouraged their applications to USU for medical school. When she saw her first daughter develop strong skills in leadership, communication, responsibility and professionalism through the military, she was sold on a military medical education, Rose said.

“I applaud my daughters’ choice of USU as their medical school,” she said, adding that it is not due to financial considerations because the family was prepared to pay for medical school for each one.

“My daughters chose this option because they each want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “The high credentials of USU, as well as the ability to have a much broader experience through rotations in many locations and through caring for those in combat, make USU highly desirable.”

With Michelle’s acceptance at USU, Rose Miller said, she is still surprised to realize she has three daughters in the military. While she wouldn’t have seen it coming several years ago, she’s very happy with their choice, she said.

“Each one of them has great respect for USU as a training ground and are excited to be military officers,” Rose said. “I am so very proud of my daughters. In the end, we have become a military family.”

The girls credit their mother for their success. Observing their mother as they grew up instilled work ethic and selfless service into them, Michelle said. “For work, she had many international assignments and traveled for months at a time,” she added. “Despite these demands, she always made us feel like top priority.”

Through it all, Rose was at every school event, served as room mother for their classes, and attended all school concerts, science fairs, and sports events – even if it had to be over the phone, Nicole said. She described her mother as a role model who is the secret to the sisters’ successes.

“The three of us would not be where we are today without her,” she said. “She not only encouraged and supported us through every challenge, success and failure, but she modeled what it means to be an incredible mom and a successful career woman. Every day I strive to be as good of a mother to my son as our mom is to us.”

Mother’s Day

This year for Mother’s Day, they will all be together. It may be the last time for a while, as Natalie will be moving across the country to Tacoma, Washington, to start her ophthalmology residency at Madigan Army Medical Center.

“This is one of the first years we’ve been able to all be together,” Nicole said. The Miller family will have a busy Mother’s Day preparing for Natalie’s graduation and helping with her wedding dress search, apartment hunting for Michelle, and getting some last-minute items for Nicole’s baby. “Our mom’s job is to relax amongst the chaos,” she said.  

On this Mother’s Day, the band of sisters has messages of gratitude for Rose and her support, encouragement, and guidance.

“Thank you for the love, sacrifice, encouragement, and hard work you’ve given to each of us,” Nicole. “We owe everything to you!”

NORAD: 60 Years of Keeping North America Safe, Vice Chairman Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The legacy of the North American Aerospace Defense Command began 60 years ago when the threat of nuclear attack was real. The threat of attack from Soviet bombers and missiles was what citizens experienced every day, said Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at NORAD’s 60th anniversary, today.

Speaking at Peterson Air Force Base Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the vice chairman said it was the development of NORAD -- a joint and binational command that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America -- that helped alleviate that fear.

“It helped build one of the building blocks of deterrence that has served us since that day,” he said.

During that time period, Selva said, a group of staff officers from the U.S. Continental Air Defense Command and the Royal Canadian Air Force met and decided that the two nations were more powerful together than they were separately.

U.S., Canada Combining Forces

“The outcome of that meeting was a recommendation to the United States and Canada that we could counter that threat more effectively if we combined our forces and formed an integrated binational command completely unique, but built for purpose,” the vice chairman said, adding the leaders of both nations obviously agreed.

Selva said it would be rare “that two nations might actually sit down and agree to compromise over the arguments of sovereignty and actually come to an agreement that protecting each other is the most important thing we can do together,” he noted.

NORAD Adapts

“We find other challenges when we look to the high north. The Arctic is melting, creating more accessibility for commercial purposes, but also challenging continental security. I have no doubt that NORAD will adapt,” Selva said.

“We can no longer guard solely against external threats. Regrettably, we must be prepared for security challenges that originate from within our borders again I have no doubt that the men and women of NORAD will adapt,” he added.

NORAD has adapted and remains as vital and relevant today as it was on that day 60 years ago when it was formed, Selva said.

And in the future, there will be plenty to keep NORAD busy.

“The U.S. launches hundreds of missiles … launches every year. The tactical actions that you take to protect our aerospace on any given day happen about every six hours,” he said, addressing the NORAD workforce.

“To the tens of thousands of pieces of space debris that you track and help our commercial and military partners navigate in space, Colorado Springs does look like the center of the universe,” the vice chairman said.

Keeping Citizens Safe

When NORAD and U.S. Northern Command service members and civilians wake up each day, they take pride knowing they are defending North America, the homeland. And that means that a few hundred million people can sleep soundly every day, Selva said.

“The militaries of Canada and the United States have shared the battlefield since World War I. We have stood side by side guarding our nations in this continent for 60 years,” he said.

“Congratulations on 60 years of success and I wish you 60 more,” the vice chairman said.