25 years and counting at the helm

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 04:49 AM

As Jeff Miller served as an executive for a hospital in Atlanta more than 25 years ago, he received a call that would change his life — only at the time, it didn’t seem that apparent.

Then 38 years old, Miller was contacted by the head of a search committee for High Point Regional Hospital, which was recruiting a new president. The High Point Regional board of directors had overseen a mammoth effort to open a new hospital building, and community leaders wanted an up-and-coming administrator to oversee the facility.
Miller, who went to Duke University and formerly worked at a hospital in Charlotte, was intrigued by the possibility of returning to North Carolina and running a medical center as a top executive for the first time in his career. He interviewed for the post, then was hired. Miller started as president of High Point Regional 25 years ago today.
He’s grateful on a professional and personal level that he decided to stay for a quarter of a century. Miller is the longest-serving president at one hospital currently working in the state.
But the native of Pennsylvania acknowledges that he didn’t expect to remain at High Point Regional for 25 years when he took the job.
“I thought I would come here, get some CEO experience and move on to a larger hospital,” Miller told The High Point Enterprise earlier this week.
Instead, Miller and his family found themselves becoming enamored with the employees of High Point Regional and developing friendships with people in the community. And as High Point Regional grew with the city’s expansion, Miller found himself taking on challenges that previously he would have expected only at a larger medical facility.
During Miller’s term, High Point Regional added its cancer and heart centers and developed into the city’s second-largest employer with more than 2,000 workers. High Point Regional Health System is on the verge of a historic change as it merges with UNC Health Care, the first merger in the more than 100-year history of the hospital.
Civic leader and retired businessman Bill Horney, who was on the High Point Regional board that hired Miller 25 years ago, said Miller emerged as a clear choice during interviews.
“We hit a home run when we hired Jeff Miller,” Horney said. 
Horney said the board that hired Miller was impressed with his leadership qualities and ability to find consensus among the many groups that make up the network of a medical center.
Miller has witnessed monumental changes in health care, from technology that saves lives that would have been lost 25 years ago to bureaucratic rules that now require a large staff of workers to negotiate.
But something Miller wrote 24 and a half years ago shows that issues surrounding health care haven’t changed as much as some would think. In the October 1988 hospital newsletter, Miller wrote a column marking his sixth month of service.
“We are not immune from the challenging environment that all hospitals face,” he wrote in the fall of 1988. “The most difficult challenge is the pressures that we are seeing to keep our costs as low as possible without compromising quality.”
Miller, 63, said he has no immediate plans to retire. He believes he should stay on to help with the transition during the merger with UNC Health Care, which will play out through this year.
Miller couldn’t have known in the fall of 1988 that what he wrote to conclude his newsletter column would hold true for so long.
“Thanks for a good six months,” he wrote, “and I look forward to working with all of you as we face the challenge of the future.”

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528


About Jeff Miller
Native of Mercer, Pa. Earned bachelor’s degree in economics from Ohio Wesleyan University, master’s degree in hospital administration from Duke University
Married to Carroll Ann Miller, couple has two children; member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Prior to joining High Point Regional Health System 25 years ago, served as associate administrator of Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and senior vice president of Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte