Corey Miller had no intention of going into health care. He was going to play hockey and join the family farm operation.
Miller played for the Swift Current Legionnaires in high school. And it wasn’t until the daughter of his billet family in Swift Current starting talk about her job as an X-ray technologist, that the then 17-year-old Miller even considered doing something other than playing hockey and farming.
“Sometimes we stumble into our careers by accident,” says Miller. “I always found her stories about her job fascinating. I guess I always had that in the back of my head.”
But even after applying for the medical radiation technologist program at the then Kelsey campus of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) (now Saskatchewan Polytechnique), Miller still had no intention of going.
“I was playing hockey in Swift Current, and the plan was to go to Humboldt that fall to play,” he says. Then he got accepted to SIAST.
“The program began in August and hockey season didn’t start until September, so I decided to try it.”
Suddenly the left-winger found himself torn; he still wanted to play hockey but he was really enjoying his classes and his practicum training time at Saskatoon City Hospital in the Medical Imaging Department. Plans for playing in Humboldt were quickly abandoned in favour of staying in Saskatoon to continue his education. Unable to give up on hockey completely, Miller ended up playing for the Saskatoon Royals. (Miller also continued playing Senior hockey around Saskatchewan until he was 36 years old, and really enjoyed staying connected to rural communities through hockey.)
It’s not a decision that he regrets. “I’m very proud of that fact that I quite literally grew up in the health care system,” he says.
Saskatchewan Health Authority vice president of Provincial Programs, Corey Miller, with his family.
Miller began working as a medical radiation technologist student at the old City Hospital in Saskatoon when he was 17 years old.
“Training was a little bit different back then,” he explains. “We were accepted into training programs by the hospitals, not by the educational institutions. I was excited to work in the brand new City Hospital that they were building once I was finished my training, but I got done before they did,” he laughs.
In fact, throughout his career, there aren’t a lot of areas in health care that Miller hasn’t touched in one way or another. While working night shifts in general radiology, Miller went back to school to study health care administration, after which he became the manager of medical imaging for Saskatoon City Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. From there, he became the director for medical imaging, took an administrative fellowship role with St. Paul’s Hospital and then transitioned into a director role with Practitioner Staff Affairs with Saskatoon Health Region.
“I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity in my career to blend the clinical and the administrative aspects of health care,” he says. “I’ve been able to work on a lot of great projects, like the MRI expansion at Royal University Hospital and the development of the Breast Health Centre at Saskatoon City Hospital, and I’ve been able to work on them from both sides. Working in healthcare has been a pretty incredible opportunity to serve my community.”
That combination of clinical and administrative experience led him to his role as vice president for Integrated Health Services with the former Saskatoon Health Region, and then onto the role of vice president of Care Services for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.
Now, as the vice president of Provincial Programs for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, diagnostic imaging is once again under his purview.
“It kind of feels like I’ve come full circle in a way,” he says. “There’s a lot of programs in this portfolio that I’ve had some involvement with in the past, like diagnostic imaging, pharmacy, and emergency medical services, and there are some that I’ve never had any involvement in, like tertiary care and maternal and children’s health services.”
But learning about these new programs and getting to know all the people involved is something that Miller is excited about.
“As we’ve been travelling around the province and getting to know our people and our sites, one of the things we keep saying is ‘strengthen provincially, deliver locally’, and what it really means is having a strategy,” he explains. “We know that it isn’t feasible to have every possible health care service in every one of our sites. However, it should be possible to create the infrastructure of our larger centres to be able to support our smaller sites to deliver services in a timely and efficient way to support their local communities.”
It’s that integration across services and portfolios that Miller believes is a tremendous opportunity for the Saskatchewan Health Authority to deliver the appropriate care closest to home with the support of the larger provincial system.
“I’m from rural Saskatchewan, and so is my wife. We understand the impacts and the importance of a health care system that is truly provincial in its approach,” he says. “Being involved in the SHA from the ground up has certainly been challenging and overwhelming, but it’s exciting, too, because we have the opportunity to make things better. The people we serve deserve that and I take that responsibility very seriously.”
That rural perspective applies not only to his professional life but to his personal life as well. Born and raised in Gravelbourg, Miller and his family were and still are grain farmers.
“Most people are surprised when they find that out about me,” he laughs. “When it comes to the farm, I can operate and fix just about anything.”
Miller actively farmed for 20 years, but now rents out his land, making more time for his busy career and young, busy family. He still goes back to help out his family on the farm when he can. “I love getting back there. I love the work,” he says.
Miller is also an avid outdoorsman. He likes hunting, fishing and camping. Miller and his wife Tanya, who is a teacher, take their girls Mya and Leeya camping to Diefenbaker Lake and Thompson Lake in southern Saskatchewan.
“Both our families live nearby there and it’s a beautiful spot,” he says.
So would the former hockey player say that his decision to stay in school was a good one?
“Absolutely,” he laughs. “I’m right where I’m meant to be.”