Nic Miller is a first year student at The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. He is one of about 190 students taking their first steps on the path to becoming a physician. What makes him unique amongst his peers is his relatively nontraditional backstory: Nic grew up in an Amish/Mennonite community.
Nic’s story begins in Walnut Creek, Ohio. There are as many doctor’s offices as there are stop lights (one) in Walnut Creek. His family business is furniture and cabinetry; but after working in the family’s shop during the summer following his 9th grade year, Nic conceded a profound disinterest in cabinetry and focused instead on his fascination with computers and technology. So he did as most other kids in the Amish/Mennonite community do – he dropped out of school in the 10th grade to pursue a trade.
“The expectation was simply that job opportunities existed inside the community where the requisite knowledge was acquired with time and on-the-job training. I was into technology, so I started working at a local print shop. In fact, I helped build a photography studio from the ground up and, for the next four years, I ran the studio.”
Content with his chosen profession and satisfied to remain in his community, Nic’s path was suddenly reshaped after a tragic accident took the life of his good friend.
“The experience of losing my friend changed me in a profound and permanent way that’s difficult to describe. I remember clearly that it was Labor Day in 2007 when I put my foot down and decided I was going to become a doctor. I didn’t have a clue what that meant, but I knew it’s what I wanted to do.”
Aside from its suddenness, Nic’s decision to pursue a career in medicine was not common in the Amish community, to say the least. In fact, in the 40 year history of his K-12 school, only two other alumni had even pursued a graduate level education of any kind. Undeterred and with a laser focus, Nic took his first steps to becoming a physician by enrolling at the University of Akron, where he majored in Biology. To say his initial days at Akron were a culture shock is a significant understatement.
“I remember how vastly out of place I felt that first day. I hadn’t been in school for years, I was older than my classmates, and the teacher was speaking the ‘foreign language’ of Biology. I didn’t know what an atom was or how a cell worked. Not only that, but I had no idea how to learn, or how to study, how to take effective notes, or how to prepare for tests. I was totally clueless. With time I came to enjoy the process. I worked as an assistant in the Biology lab my freshman year, helping to prep labs for other classes. I absorbed information as I could, and had a great deal of fun learning.”
Nic intends to eventually become a general surgeon with the express purpose of relocating back to his Mennonite community. He believes that as a rural surgeon he can best serve the diverse needs of his community in a way that is culturally sensitive and cost-effective.
“The Amish tend to forgo traditional insurance and make decisions about healthcare using the principles of thrift and quality of life as guiding tenets. They pay cash, even for major operations and chronic disease cases. It’s my goal to accommodate their way of life by delivering healthcare in a way that preserves their virtue, their thrift, and their generosity.”
With a long view squarely in focus, Nic is enjoying the gifts of today and has found his transition to the College quite seamless. He notes the sense of camaraderie that threads through campus, the classroom and his relationship with colleagues.
“There are many giants at OSU on whose shoulders I have the privilege of standing, and that alone has been one of the most amazing experiences for me. The statement ‘I am a medical student at the Ohio State University College of Medicine’ opens many amazing doors and even invokes congratulations from perfect strangers.”