One-on-One with Bill Miller


As the Associate Dean, Health Professions, Dr. William (Bill) Miller provides leadership to the health profession programs within the Faculty of Medicine. His dedication to collaborating across disciplines – which is in support of the Faculty’s new strategic plan, Building the Future – is helping enhance and extend the programs’ reach. An occupational therapist by trade, Dr. Miller also serves as a Professor within the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, where he combines his interest in rehabilitation research with his passion for teaching and mentoring graduate students.

What quality do you most admire in a leader? 

WM: Integrity. A leader may have great vision, but if they do not actively demonstrate core values that people can relate to, they will never have a strong following. 

What makes you laugh?

WM: I love the kind of humour where we can poke fun at ourselves, or at the absurdities of everyday life. George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld are two of my favourite comedians — they really engage you in navel gazing around common, everyday occurrences, allowing you to see the absurd through a different set of lenses. 

Who inspires you and why?

WM: The youth of today. Millennials tend to get a bad rap — and they are often painted with the same brush. But I think many of them provide inspiration for the future. Many care deeply about the environment, they understand the political situation, and they embrace opportunities as they come. My own three daughters inspire me every day.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

WM: If you want to succeed in life, you have to work for it. You get out of it what you want put in. 

As Associate Dean, Health Professions, what is your vision for the Faculty of Medicine’s health professions programs?  

WM: Health care is a team sport and it’s important to recognize the incredible contribution that all health care professionals play in supporting patients across B.C. 

Here at UBC, we offer a wealth of health professional training programs, ranging from midwifery, genetic counseling, occupational therapy and physical therapy through to speech-language pathology and audiology. Within a relatively short time, we’ve seen these programs have incredible success — just last fall we welcomed a record number of speech-language pathology students.
But it’s still early days. My vision for the Faculty’s health professions programs is to continue to build on our success. We need to be at the forefront of supporting a more integrated, team-based approach to care across the province and that requires growing the reach of our health profession programs. The establishment of the Department of Physical Therapy’s Northern and Rural Cohort (NRC), created in 2012 with funding from the provincial government, is an example of a health profession program that is already helping to shape care in the province, with 50 per cent of NRC graduates from the first two cohorts now practicing in northern or rural communities.

Ultimately, instead of competing voices, we need to ensure all voices are heard — each and every health care practitioner, whether they’re a physician or a genetic counselor, has complementary skills to offer for the betterment of patients. 

For you, what makes UBC different?

WM: The environment — UBC is so much more than a place to study; it’s a place to learn about life. It’s about social engagement and enabling people to pursue the things they want to pursue. 

What is your favourite song?

WM: I think music is very situation specific so I have a lot of favourites. If I needed to burn some energy, I’ll hop on my bike and maybe listen to Led Zeppelin. If I’m hanging around with a group of friends, I might put on Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” or Blue Rodeo’s “It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet.” 

How do you like to recharge?

WM: I get on my cross-country bike and ride. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junky when it comes to endurance. My family has a little place at Lac Le Jeune, between Merritt and Kamloops — we are three doors from a provincial park with 45 kilometers of trails, so I go out there and ride my bike. I have been cycling since I was a kid, but in 1988 I started doing triathlons. I currently have five bikes – I tend not to discard them easily.

What would you like to be remembered for?

WM: I would like to be known as a mentor who helped create the kind of environment that made other people excited to learn and engage. One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity I get to spend with graduate students — I love working with them to tackle problems, generate new ideas and spark conversations around ‘what if?’ — we both come away electrified, feeling empowered to change the world.

First job

WM: My very first job was as a Christmas tree sorter.

Greatest mentor

WM: My dad. He had a huge impact on me. After completing 36 missions as a navigator in the RCAF, he contracted polio while preparing to return to Canada during the Second World War. After he returned, he spent the following three years living in the veteran’s hospital in Vancouver and, at only 22 years old, he would go on to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Growing up in the 70s, I quickly learned that the environment was not built for people with disabilities. I watched him problem-solve to overcome mobility barriers he faced every day and though he was never trained, nor did he practice as a professional, my father was the first occupational therapist I ever met. 

He overcame a lot of adversity, and learned to laugh at life’s absurdities — he’s shaped my life in many ways. I remember him as a gentle man, with a hunger for knowledge.

Currently reading

WM: I currently have 15 books on the go — all are half read. My favourite books are some of the Mitch Albom books because they are short and consumable. Tuesdays with Morrie was really profound. 

Favourite app

WW: Spa Boy — it helps me track the chemicals and temperature of my hot tub at Lac Le Jeune. But the app I use the most is probably the Weather Network so I can get in a good, dry bike ride.

Favourite restaurant

WM: Chez Francine. My wife’s cuisine. 

Last vacation destination

WM: Croatia for a bike trip.