PATTON - Dr. Russell Miller is seen around town a lot - from volunteering in the community to making house calls to his patients.
Those are a few of the reasons he was chosen by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health for the 2011 Rural Health Hero of the Year Award.
"It's a chance to represent health care workers in rural areas," he said. "There are a lot of rewards and good things about being in a rural area."
Dr. Russell Miller chats with Dr. Linnane Batzel, chief medical officer at Altoona Regional, in her office at Altoona Regional.
Miller thinks of the award as very humbling.
Lisa Davis, director of The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, said Miller was chosen because he does a lot of giving back to his community. The Rural Health office honors recipients for five awards total, all of which are annual.
"Dr. Miller has had a longstanding commitment to providing quality health care to rural residents," Davis said. "He also has mentored a lot of students who are interested in practicing in rural areas as well."
The Miller File
Name: Dr. Russell Miller
Education: Cambria Heights High School graduate, 1988; bachelor's degree in biology from Juniata College, 1990; medical degree from Penn State's College of Medicine in Hershey, 1994; completed his residency in family medicine at Conemaugh Memorial in Johnstown, 1997.
Occupation: Family physician
Hometown: St. Augustine
Family: Wife, Lorie Kosicki-Miller
Miller, who has an office in Patton, makes regular house calls to patients. He also serves as clinical director of the Southcentral Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, which is part of a program with offices in 42 states. The program aims to provide services for communities that may be medically underserved, and works with schools to encourage students to have health care careers.
"I like seeing people in their natural environment," he said. "You learn more about them then you might in a doctor's office."
American Academy of Private Physicians Executive Director Tom Blue said 90 percent of private practicing physicians around the country typically make house calls.
Miller said it is a good opportunity because a lot of the elderly and very sick patients can't easily leave their homes.
Outside of his practice, Miller likes gardening, playing bagpipes and is involved with the Patton Public Library. He said it can sometimes be a struggle to balance all of his busy activities and family life. He and his wife try to work on activities together.
"Family life may suffer," he said. "My wife is wonderfully understanding. You have to make the most out of the time that you have and learn to let go of the petty stuff."
Jarrett Bender, a student Miller mentored during his college career, joined Miller in his practice in August. After he retires, Miller said he would like Bender to keep the practice going in the area and attract more people.
He would like to see more thinking outside of the box when it comes to access to medical care and services in rural communities.
"The intellectual potential that exists in rural schools needs to be nurtured," he said. "We can't always expect someone else to come into a rural community and take care of us."
Miller sees it as a benefit to be able to practice where he is originally from because he likes to get to know people and also may already know some of their family histories.
He considers the best part of his job to be seeing his patients maximize their potential and being able to help them.
"It's the satisfaction of seeing people do better and get well," he said. "I like to see them improve."