Pediatrician found her life path — and her life partner — at uOttawa med school

Posted on Monday, June 29, 2020

Jessica Sinclair

When the Class of 2000 got together for their 15th anniversary reunion, they just couldn’t stop talking. Pediatrician Dr. Kirsten Miller reckons they must have set some kind of record for best-attended reunion class. It was one of those cohorts—about 80 students with amazing camaraderie and an instinctive connection that bonded the group.

“I want to say we had eight couples from that class who got married,” says Dr. Miller.

That number includes Dr. Miller and her pathologist husband Dr. Justin Lo. Now living in Prince George, B.C. they enjoy thriving medical practices and a joyful family life with three young sons.

They are also monthly donors to their alma mater. The reason is simple: a deep sense of gratitude.

“We both felt uOttawa gave us a chance, and that chance is what made our life paths possible,” says Dr. Miller. “Plus, it brought us together!”

The University of Ottawa was Dr. Miller’s first choice to study medicine. In fact, as soon as the offer came in from uOttawa, Miller didn’t wait around to find out whether there would be others. She withdrew her applications to every other medical school, with the result that she still doesn’t know what their answers were.

Dr. Miller remembers the exact moment at uOttawa when the seed was planted for her career in pediatrics. It was the first rotation of her clerkship, and the prospect of facing her first actual patients felt intimidating. After a successful day, her supervisor, Dr. Mary Pothos, made what in retrospect may have been a throw-away comment: “You should consider pediatrics.”

“I thought, ‘I should, shouldn’t I!’” remembers Dr. Miller.

Later, when applying for a residency placement, Dr. Miller and Dr. Lo — who were dating at the time — felt drawn to BC because of their family connections. Dr. Lo was originally from the province, and Dr. Miller’s parents had recently moved out West.

Their current location in Prince George, a full day’s drive from Vancouver, led Dr. Miller to develop expertise in Type 1 diabetes management that would normally be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist in less remote areas of the country. She also works at one of five child abuse clinics in the province, conducting medical legal assessments to determine whether patterns of injury are consistent with abuse, then testifying in court.

“It’s fascinating to be part of the legal world, and the pace is more relaxed than a fee-for-service practice,” says Dr. Miller.

About 25% of her time is spent on child maltreatment work, 10% on diabetes care, and the remainder focuses on consulting general pediatrics, including hospital-based pediatric and neonatal care and her own office-based private practice.

Even though Dr. Miller and Dr. Lo have taken their expertise out West, they like to think that some of the doctors they train will go to Ontario to work in the health care system here. In the meantime, there’s one thing Dr. Miller tries to remember to tell her strongest students: “You should consider pediatrics—I think you’d be good at it.”

Dr. Kirsten Miller and Dr. Justin Lo, 1999


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