When Jillian Blyth Miller, B.S.N. ’07, M.S.N. ’13, was a little girl, ER was her favorite television series. “Pretty much anything with surgery and patient care fascinated her,” recalls Jillian’s father, Arthur Miller, B.S. ’78, M.B.A. ’80. The Millers never imagined that the little girl in front of the TV would one day be an integral member of a critical care team herself.
After graduating from the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies, Jillian was offered a nursing position in the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital. She soon moved into the leadership role of charge nurse, later becoming the first nurse in her unit selected to train and work with neurological surgical
dialysis machines for neurological patients.Wanting to further her education, she began pursuing a master’s degree in the Acute Car Nurse Practitioner Program at the SONHS. It was during this time that she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic adenocarcinoma.
“She was a ’Cane through and through. She was also serious about her career and oriented to personal, professional, and academic excellence.”
Jillian spent the next year waging a courageous battle against this deadly form of lung cancer, but she never stopped caring for others or thinking like a nurse. When she volunteered to participate in a Phase 1B clinical trial, Jillian shared with her family that she hoped the experimental treatment would not only help her but also make a difference for others in the future. Never a smoker, Jillian fought to debunk the myth that all who are afflicted with lung cancers are smokers. She also participated in her hospital’s Young Adults with Cancer group, sharing up-close-and-personal experiences about her illness and using her expertise as a health care professional to “make it better” for other young people.
Jillian passed away before she could attend her second UM commencement ceremony, but in December 2013, Art and Ros Miller accepted the Master of Science in Nursing degree awarded posthumously to their daughter. Also in attendance were her brothers, Jared and Daniel, and sister-in-law Amy. Being on campus together was not a new experience for the Millers, avid ’Canes fans who hold season tickets and travel from their Tampa home to Miami for the games.
“Jillian would have been full of UM pride today,” Ros Miller said. “When she was a child, no family vacation to Florida was complete without a trip to the U, her father’s alma mater. She was a ’Cane through and through. She was also serious about her career and oriented to personal, professional, and academic excellence. We are proud of her and honored to accept Jillian’s M.S.N. degree on her behalf.”
As a tribute to Jillian’s accomplishments and to celebrate a life that was unique and meaningful, the Miller family made a major Momentum2 campaign gift in her honor to support the planned SONHS Simulation Hospital. “Jillian’s life exemplified the mission of the School of Nursing and Health Studies,” Art Miller said. “The Simulation Hospital will educate health care professionals who will make patient-centered care their number-one priority, just as she did.”