Arden Miller, national leader, former chair of maternal and child health, dies July 26

July 29, 2015

Dr. Arden Miller

Dr. Arden Miller

C. Arden Miller, MD, a respected national leader and expert in child health, died on July 26 at the age of 90. Dr. Miller formerly was vice chancellor of health sciences at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and professor and chair of maternal and child health at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Born in Shelby, Ohio, on Sept. 19, 1924, Dr. Miller graduated from Oberlin College in 1944 and earned a Doctor of Medicine, cum laude, from Yale University in 1948. His first academic appointments were at the University of Kansas, where he joined the faculty as an instructor in pediatrics in 1951, rising through the ranks as assistant dean and associate professor (1957), as medical director of the University’s new Children’s Rehabilitation Unit (1958), as dean of the medical school and director of the medical center (1960) and as the university’s first provost (1965).

In 1966, he accepted the vice chancellorship at UNC and served in that capacity until 1971, when he returned to a career of teaching and research as a professor of maternal and child health at UNC’s public health school. His research interests included children’s infectious diseases, notably polio and other handicapping illnesses. In 1977, he was selected as department chair.

Early in his career, a competitive scholarship had allowed him to travel to England and Scotland to survey university medical programs in those countries, and in 1988, he was a visiting professor of maternal and child health at China’s Shenyang Medical University. Through these experiences, he developed global perspectives on public health that were advanced for his time. He remained throughout his life keenly aware of the disparities and opportunities in children’s health and the need to improve prevention and care for all children.

In a tribute article in the January 2011 issue of American Journal of Public Health, Drs. Theodore Brown and Elizabeth Fee describe Dr. Miller’s being interviewed by a New York Times reporter in 1994 about his comparative studies of maternal and child health services in 10 European countries.

“[Miller] declared that the French concept of prevention was ‘much more global’ and ‘more valid and effective’ than the concept of prevention in the United States,” Brown and Fee wrote. “Whereas the U.S. put preventive measures in a medical context, in France, they also were linked to broad social support systems. In France, children were considered the responsibility of society as a whole, while in the U.S., they were regarded only as the responsibility of their parents. In summary, France spent much less money and obtained much better results.”

As a dedicated children’s advocate and eloquent spokesperson, he was appointed to a number of influential positions. In 1974 and 1975, he served as president of the American Public Health Association (APHA). From 1983 to 1985, he was a member of the Institute of Medicine’s committee on the prevention of low birthweight, and in 1984, served on the Southern Governors’ Task Force on infant mortality. In 1984, he also was presented with APHA’s Martha Mae Eliot Award for extraordinary health services to mothers and children. In 1986, he received the Fifth Annual World Hunger Media Award for “Infant Mortality in America,” published in 1985 in Scientific American. In 1987, he received APHA’s oldest and most prestigious award, the Sedgwick Memorial Medal, for distinguished service and advancement of public health knowledge and practice.

Other honors included serving as vice president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, president of the Teachers of Maternal and Child Health, chair of the National Task Force on Learning Disabilities in Children, and chair of the Alan Guttmacher Institute’s board of trustees. He was consultant to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Mine Workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Public Health Service and U.S. Congress, as well as many international agencies.

Pierre Buekens, MD, MPH, PhD, W.H. Watkins Professor and dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and former professor and chair of maternal and child health at the Gillings School (1996-2002), called Dr. Miller an extremely articulate advocate for mothers and children – and for reproductive rights.

“[Dr. Miller’s] advocacy always was based on science and data, reinforced by his own elegant yet provocative style,” Buekens said. “He taught us to look beyond our borders and to dream of achieving health equity in the United States and around the globe. Arden was a wonderful mentor, always supportive, encouraging and guiding without imposing. He changed my life and the lives of many others.”

“Arden was a towering figure, both professionally and in person,” said Jonathan Kotch, MD, MPH, who before his phased retirement was Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor of Children’s Environmental Health and former chair of maternal and child health at the Gillings School. “He influenced an entire generation of maternal and child health professionals in research and practice. As an advocate, he spoke forcefully and persuasively on behalf of women’s health and children’s rights. The influence of his leadership as chair, built as it was upon the firm foundation laid by his predecessors, can be seen in the department today, as well as in other schools of public health and other organizations across the country.”

To give a gift online in Dr. Miller’s memory, please go to giving.unc.edu/gift/sph and “search funds” for Arden Miller. Checks may be written to the Public Health Foundation and sent to SPH Advancement, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 107 Rosenau Hall, Campus Box 7400, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400. Please note “Helen and Arden Miller Endowment for Faculty Support” on the check’s memo line.

Dr. Miller’s obituary appeared in the July 29 News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

A memorial service will be held on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 19. Information about time and location will be posted here by Aug. 15.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu