June 24, 2005

VUSM mourns loss of fourth-year student Miller

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Scott Miller

VUSM mourns loss of fourth-year student Miller

Rising fourth-year medical student Scott Miller and his wife, Sheila, were celebrating their one-month wedding anniversary on Saturday, June 18, swimming near Annapolis, Md.

Caught in an undertow, Sheila was rescued but Miller drowned after unsuccessful attempts at resuscitation. According to a police report in the Baltimore Sun, an Annapolis man in a sailboat used a dinghy to pull Miller from the water, and two other men ran from shore and rescued Sheila.

“They had been swimming there before. Scott knew the depth of the water, but there was nothing they could do when the current got hold of them,” said Josh Fessel, a fellow fourth-year student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and one of Miller's closest friends.

“Scott was unique. He had a unique sense of style and looked as if he stepped out of the 1930s or 1940s,” Fessel said. “He wore a jacket, vest, tie and hat and drove a 1942 Chevy. He was just an extremely smart guy. Scott knew a lot of things about a lot of things — history, literature, and languages. He played ragtime piano and loved music and musical theater. He could talk about so many different things.”

Miller, 35, who received his master's in 2004 through the Medical Scientist Training Program at VUSM, received a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995 and came to VUSM shortly after that. He was to begin a rotation with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda on Monday.

Joey Barnett, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology, was assigned as Miller's mentor when he came in 1995, and the two have kept in close contact. Miller also worked in Barnett's lab for 10 months.

“We had a lot in common. He was a very funny guy with a quick smile and a quirky sense of humor,” Barnett said. “He was a good kid who struggled when he first came here, but it wasn't from a lack of ability or passion. It took him awhile to find his place, and that's why we're here, to help students find their place. But he had clearly found it. This is a tragedy for all of us.”

Barnett last saw Miller a couple of weeks before his wedding. They planned to have dinner together when Miller returned from Annapolis.

Fessel said that Miller and his wife, from Malaysia, had met through a “pen pal” relationship, and the two had worked hard for several years to save money to bring her to the United States.

The medical student body was notified on Monday of Miller's death. A funeral will be held in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., and a memorial service will also be held in the future at Vanderbilt.