News & Press: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight on Susan Miller, PT, DPT, MS

Thursday, August 1, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mariann Kayser
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Susan D. Miller, PT, DPT, MS

Retired Chair and Associate Professor

Upstate Medical

Department of PT Education



August 2019


Susan Miller has been a member of NYPTA for 50 years!  She is an academic, doctor, private practitioner, wife, mother, grandmother, friend and mentor. Throughout her professional and personal journeys, she has always found the time to be a strong and passionate activist. Some of you may know Susan from speaking with her at meetings, conferences or committees and she confesses she loves being active because it gives her a say in her destiny and the direction of the profession.  After 50 years of unwavering commitment to the profession, Susan sets the bar high for others to follow.


Take a few minutes and get to know this month's member spotlight with us!  Enjoy the Q&A with Susan below.


How long have you been a member of the NYPTA?


I have been a member of NYPTA for 50 years.  I couldn’t wait to join as soon as I was eligible as a student and have been a member ever since. 


What is your best experience thus far?


My service to the profession began when one person said he thought I’d be a good person for the Judicial Committee and asked if I would serve.  That was the beginning of a very long list of committees and officer positions in the NYPTA, including President.  I have loved being active, particularly because I like to have a say in my destiny and the direction of the profession.  It has been a dynamic profession with growth opportunities throughout my career.  


Tell us a little about your background and how your path led you to where you are in your career today.


I got my BS in PT from the State University of New York at Buffalo back when there were only 5 schools of PT in New York State.  After graduating, I worked briefly in a general hospital and then moved to Rochester where I worked at the Al Sigl Center with children primarily with CP.  From there, I moved to Ithaca and worked in a private practice and in the clinic at Ithaca College.  It was quite by accident that I ended up in a teaching career.  It started with team teaching a course in physical agents when I was pregnant with my daughter.  After she was born, a full-time teaching position opened up and I decided to apply.  I really enjoyed teaching.  As the profession moved toward a Master’s Degree, it became necessary for me to get a Master’s Degree which I did at Cornell University.  Leaving my position at I.C., I took a position teaching at Upstate in Syracuse.  For 19 years I commuted from Ithaca and then moved to Cortland after joining three other women to start a private practice.  I learned so much from starting that practice from designing the clinic, writing policies and procedures and learning the ins and outs of payment.  I was still teaching at Upstate.  Once again, the profession moved forward transitioning to the doctorate. As a result, I entered the DPT program at MGH and also became a Clinical Orthopedic Specialist. 


What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?


It’s hard to choose one favorite moment from my career, but I think being involved in passing mandatory continuing education is one. I was a member of the NYPTA that worked on the legislation, traveled to Districts to gather input, and then, as a member of the NYS Board for PT, helped with writing the regulations.  Being involved with the updates of our practice act (including future ones) is another high point. 


What are some of the key opportunities and challenges facing the physical therapy profession?


There are many opportunities for the profession.  Particularly in the areas of health, wellness, and prevention.  Also, given the opioid epidemic, we have much to offer.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of challenges as well.  While the advancements in the profession have been phenomenal, the salaries have not kept up with the debt load many take on to become a member of this great profession.  This is a problem!  As a past chair of the New York State Board for Physical Therapy, I became aware that we don’t necessarily do a good job of policing our own behaviors.  From my perspective, we have created some of our own practice problems and payment issues by cutting corners and not staying current. When we make decisions for patient management based on finances (theirs or ours) rather than what is best for the patient, it’s a problem.        


What advice would you give NYPTA members who are new to the profession?


I believe each PT, PTA and student must be an advocate for the profession.  Be a member of the Association!  Sure, you might say, “Why do I need to be a member?  I get the benefits whether I belong or not.”  Well there is strength in numbers.  It takes money to protect and advance our profession.  Without dues revenue, there would be no lobbyist monitoring the bills that come before the legislature that impact our practice or to advance our own legislation. Over the years, I’ve seen challenges to our ability to perform massage, joint mobilization and manipulation, orthotic fabrication, vestibular therapy and more. The Association was involved in each case.  There would be no money for advocating for better payment or public relations to let others know what we do and why they should choose PT.   I could go on and on about what the Association does, but let me just say that everyone must take responsibility.  Isn’t it worth paying dues to continue to practice the way you want?


What is a favorite tip you have that you could share with others in our industry?


Going to meetings, conferences, and serving on committees has provided me a great network of people and friends.  There’s always someone I can call about any clinical, research or education question!  Make use of the resources that are available and stay current.  


What are you passionate about?


The number one thing I’m passionate about is the profession!  I want to see us be the profession of choice for the full spectrum of services. Other than this profession, I’m passionate about protecting the environment.    


What else would you like your fellow NYPTA Members to know about you?


I have one daughter, a pediatrician in the DC area and I have an adorable five-year old grandson that I love more than I ever thought possible.  My wife and I still live in Cortland with our two cats who provide endless entertainment.  Since retiring, I’ve become a member of the Board of Directors of the Ithaca Community Recovery Center.  It is very rewarding to work among the recovery community.


What is your favorite app or social media outlet?


I’m old school and don’t use a lot of apps or other social media.  I like keeping up with friends, family, colleagues and previous students on Facebook.


What is your guilty pleasure?


My guilty pleasures are vanilla ice cream, reading, and spending time with my grandson.




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