Hospital President Focuses on Joy, Fulfillment

Redonda Miller, MD, shared her secrets for finding fulfillment in work and family during the ATS 2017 Women’s Forum.

The journey from a small town in Ohio to becoming the first female president of Baltimore’s John Hopkins Hospital was not a straight line for Redonda Miller, MD. The road had curves and potholes, but she proved adept at navigating them, a talent she uses daily to juggle a challenging career with motherhood.

“I’m not a fan of a 10-year plan. You never know what is around the next corner,” says Dr. Miller. She called this the first of three life lessons she shared Monday at the ATS 2017 Women’s Forum: Don’t plan too far down the road.

The other two lessons are: Make your own destiny, and “overcome the nausea,” which usually comes with making a major life change.

“You have to create your own serendipity. If you never tell others your dream, you will never have a chance to do it. They can’t give you an opportunity if they don’t know,” Dr. Miller says. Lack of confidence and fear of the unknown are factors that she says cause many women to turn down opportunities.

Dr. Miller started at Johns Hopkins as a physician focusing on women’s health while teaching and conducting research. As much as she enjoyed the work, she says she became frustrated with the medical bureaucracy. So she pursued and earned a master’s degree in business administration. She then asked the chair of the Department of Medicine for an opportunity to tackle a project that could make a difference.

“The project was not glamorous,” she says. “I worked in the basement with coders on how physicians could document better. Several projects later, I became vice chair for clinical operations.”

She was the typical multitasking professional woman, working and raising a family. She interviewed for the vice president of medical affairs position while she was pregnant with her second child. The interview process was delayed. As luck would have it, she had a Caesarian section on a Tuesday and was invited to begin a series of 16 interviews the following Friday. She demurred.

“They said, ‘We’re giving you time. Can you come in next Friday?’” Dr. Miller says with a laugh that was quickly shared by a room filled with her fellow female peers.

Dr. Miller got the job, and in May 2016, she became Johns Hopkins Hospital president. She says the role creates challenges for a working mother, but Dr. Miller shrugs them off.

“Each of us is incredibly busy. As long as you are happy and fulfilled, that’s OK,” she says, while commenting on the support of her fellow working moms. “We are an incredible network that helps one another get things done.”

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