Former math teacher Justin Miller recently found himself back in the classroom, but this time he wasn’t teaching algebra. Miller, who is now an orthopedic surgeon and orthopedic oncologist at St Luke’s Orthopedic Care in Tamaqua, was a speaker at Tamaqua Area Middle School’s Career Day May 17.
Miller said returning to the school was a full-circle type of experience that brought back positive memories of his teaching days.
In 2008, then 23-year-old “Mr. Miller” was teaching algebra to middle schoole students in Bucks County when a freak accident started him on the path to a different career.
While helping his father, a mason, purchase supplies, Miller’s 14-year-old brother accidentally ran over the back of his ankle with a wheelbarrow, slicing his Achille’s tendon. Surgery and months of physical therapy followed and led to a full recovery. But the experience led him to question his career choice. He was intrigued by medicine and impressed by the surgeon’s impact on his life.
Miller emerged wanting to be that person for someone else, and over the next decade he earned a medical degree and completed an orthopedic surgery residency and a musculoskeletal oncology fellowship.
“I thought I had made an incorrect career choice, so I made a different one,” he said. “I want students to know that if you think you want one career and get inspired by something else, go after what excites you. For me, it took time and a lot of hard work, but now I’m doing what I love.”
Miller, who comes from a blue-collar background, also wants students to know they don’t have to come from a family with high social standing to achieve an advanced degree. But also, they don’t necessarily need an advanced degree–or any degree–to find an occupation that makes them happy.
Sue Brickle, Tamaqua Middle School Guidance Counselor, said the school holds a school-wide career day every three years. Hearing professionals describe their jobs helps students learn about careers that might interest them.
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.