- C Johnston
Laura Miller: Sacrifice and a Gift
What do you do for a woman who is self-sacrificing, deeply kind-hearted and devoted to caring for others? That’s a question that ignited an array of thoughts.
The woman is a hard-working physician who routinely chooses to serve other people before thinking about herself. And as she provides medical treatment, she also welcomes the opportunity to find out more about her patients and pray with them.
She lives out her Christian faith by caring for the bodies and souls of her patients.
According to those who know her, Laura Miller’s life has never been all about Laura Miller. It has always been about serving her God and those around her.
After medical school, Laura accepted a residency at Washington Hospital in Family Medicine. After the completion of her residency, she pursued a two-year teaching academic fellowship through the University of Pittsburgh while simultaneously attending the Graduate School of Public Health, earning a Master’s in Public Health degree.
She then chose to work in community medicine at a Christian medical clinic in an underserved part of Pittsburgh. The North Side Christian Health Center wasn’t where she could make the most money or work the best hours, but she could make a great impact in the lives of people who needed her care. She was single and devoted to her patients, so long hours, along with little sleep and low pay were ok with her. What she didn’t have, she didn’t miss, and her heart was full. She served as a staff physician at the clinic for five years.
Over the years, Laura also traveled the world on mission trips, going to places like Kenya, Cambodia, and Ecuador. In Cambodia, she brought healing hands to the slums and underprivileged people who needed treatment. She shared her knowledge with medical workers who craved current information about leading treatments. And she spread her love of Christ to everyone who would soak it in.
She also had another desire, that of teaching.
Laura’s sister, Kristie (Miller) Lang, explains, “Education runs in our family. Our mother was a third-grade teacher, and our grandmother was a second-grade teacher. Our father was the County Extension Director, leading educational programs for Penn State. And then there is our aunt and cousin, who are both educators. It’s natural that Laura had a desire to teach others.”
So she made a move to Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital Family Medicine Residency as the Assistant Residency Director and Director of Research. As a core faculty member, Laura practices Family Medicine, and is integrally involved in the training and education of residents and medical students.
“I enjoy taking care of the entire family but have found that my greatest joys are in caring for women and children,” she says. “Part of my mission at Mercy is teaching the next generation of doctors, and caring for the underserved here in Ohio and across the globe.”
In summary, she explains, “My faith impacts my daily life and my focus as a physician.”
And then COVID hit. Medical resources – including staff and materials – were insufficient. There weren’t enough doctors, nurses and even PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect them as they tested and treated the sick. People were dying of this new disease. Most businesses were shut down.
“But for those who have been healthcare workers, things were not shut down,” Laura shares. “In fact, life got busier, working different jobs than usual, trying to figure out how to still see patients virtually, four to eight hours of Zoom meetings, changing out of scrubs immediately when you got home, adapting to new methods of teaching residents, being concerned about being exposed to COVID and exposing others, and in many ways, experiencing this in isolation.”
Kristie remembers her conversations with her sister at that time. She worked on the front line in COVID clinics to test and treat the sick. PPE was scarce and she got by with whatever protection she could. Helping others was a risk.
This past year, Laura met Michael Chick and they fell in love. The two are both at a mature stage in their lives, with careers that have formed, settled and even reformed. Michael is an Air Force veteran who works in technology for a military contractor. They are now engaged, and excitedly planning a wedding next month.
Michael expresses his admiration for Laura. “She is an amazing woman, really living out her faith in Christ. She’s sacrificed so much for others. God brought us together. I feel a connection with Laura that I’ve never felt for anyone. We both know that we were made for each other.”
Because of the sacrifices she’s made throughout her life, Michael really wanted to make Laura’s birthday celebration special. So back to the original question . . .
What do you do for a woman who is self-sacrificing, deeply kind-hearted and devoted to caring for others?
Laura is passionate about music. She’ll tell you she really likes Lauren Daigle and Adele. But her very favorite singer of all time is Brandon Heath, a top-rated contemporary Christian singer/songwriter. Some of his top hits include ”Give Me Your Eyes, “The Light in Me” and “I’m Not Who I was.”
Laura passed along an email to Michael about a program that Brandon Heath calls Brandon in the Backyard. Beginning during the COVID shut-down, Brandon offered fans all over the country the opportunity to host a concert of his in their backyard. Fans were invited to submit information about their backyards, why they wanted him to perform and more. The response was overwhelming, but the artist could only select about two dozen backyards to perform in that first year.
Brandon Heath said that the Brandon in the Backyard program helped him get in touch with his audience and remember why he was writing and singing the songs he did. He was inspired. And he continued the program on a limited basis after the COVID shut down had subsided.
So Michael submitted a form to have Brandon Heath perform in Laura’s backyard, as a surprise for her birthday. He even made a video plea, showing the area and explaining Laura’s self-sacrifice over the years.
He wanted to bless her in the most amazing way possible.
So on a recent evening in Poland, OH, Michael took Laura out for a birthday dinner. Although she didn’t know it, Brandon Heath had made the trek from Nashville to perform in her backyard.
While the couple was at dinner, cars drove up to Laura’s house, with friends and family members chatting and quickly taking their seats. They were all smiling, knowing they could all show Laura some of the love that she had given to so many people over the years.
Standing on the porch and using only a microphone and a box speaker, Brandon Heath introduced himself and welcomed the crowd. He explained the plans for the evening and started strumming his guitar. Family members passed out cupcakes, with instructions to hold onto them.
When Michael walked Laura around the corner, about 75 people, led by her favorite singer of all time, Brandon Heath, broke out in song – “Happy Birthday”, of course. Laura’s happiness radiated from her face as she acknowledged the gift that was previously unimaginable. And everyone shared in her joy and ate cupcakes in her honor.
She never expected payment as she used her vacation time to treat faraway children in the poverty of Cambodia. She thought nothing of stopping to pray with a worried patient, even as the day got late and her work hours were far from over. She didn’t think twice about giving extra time to a resident doctor who was learning some challenging concepts. She was willing to be the doctor who died, if necessary, to test and care for people with COVID. And for years she didn’t focus on her own love life, too busy striving to save lives.
But people like Michael, Kristie and Brandon Heath gave something back to Laura that would bless her to the core. They gave her an experience of love that warmed her soul and touched her heart in an indelible way.
Love is the river that flows through, Love never fails you.
As true as those words are in Laura’s life, they are also part of a song that she and Michael had already decided would be part of their wedding. It’s a song, “Love Never Fails,” that Brandon Heath wrote, based on 1 Corinthians 13, and tenderly sang to the couple. This was all part of the perfect gift to a woman who is self-sacrificing, deeply kind-hearted and devoted to caring for others.
The question is answered.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”- Ephesians 3:18-20 (Laura’s favorite scripture passage)
For more information on Brandon Heath, his music and Brandon in the Backyard go to https://brandonheathmusic.com.
Photo Credit to Kristie Lang.