15th October 2018
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Award for hard work on spinal cord injuries

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By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS

A SHETLANDER who lives in Canada has gained a top medical award for her work in spinal cord injuries.

Louise Miller (née Hughson) recently received the Canadian Medical Association’s Medal of Honour – the highest honour bestowed on a person who is not a member of the medical profession.

The eldest child of the late Thomas and Kitty Hughson, Mrs Miller, 73, grew up in Firth (the family are related to Norman Lamont’s family, who lived at Annandale) and later in Lerwick. She was educated at the Anderson Educational Institute (Arthur Anderson was a great grand uncle) and trained as a nurse. It was when working in London that she met her future husband John Miller – the couple emigrated to Canada with their two children in 1965.

Only one of Mrs Miller’s siblings still lives in Shetland – Diane Watt, who stays in Lerwick. Sister Audrey is in Glasgow, and the rest of the family – Charles, half-sisters Patricia and Michelle and half-brother Thomas Andrew have settled in Canada.

Mrs Watt remembers her sister as being a good organiser. “We always did what we were told.”

After arriving in Alberta, Mrs Miller furthered her nursing qualifications and then gained an MBA degree. She still teaches business studies one day a week. In 1978 she became the first woman on the board of directors of Edmon­ton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Mrs Miller suffered a spinal cord injury during a failed medical pro­cedure in 1984. This resulted in paraplegia and she has been conf­ined to a wheelchair ever since.

Her injury served as a catalyst for the subsequent years of advocacy for people with disa­bilities and in particular those with spinal cord injuries. Mrs Watt described her sister as “amazing”, and said: “She always thinks of what she can do, not of what she can’t do.” Her positive attitude and spirit have proved inspirational to others, she said.

Mrs Miller is actively involved in getting wheelchair access in her home city, Edmonton, has co-chaired the city’s Custom Transportation Services Advisory Board, and has been the vice-chairwoman of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Edmonton. She was also a member of a subcommittee that formed the Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, which continues to fund spinal cord research.

When she chaired the City of Edmonton Task Force on Persons with Physical Disabilities in the 1980s a report with 62 recommend­ations was produced to improve access for the disabled.

Her greatest achievement is in co-founding the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Center Society (SCITCS) in 1987, which aims to create opportunities and enhance the lives of those with spinal cord injury. Since its inception, she has worked tirelessly for the organisation, being active in raising money for supporting applied research and bringing the latest technology and research to Alberta.

Mrs Miller has also served two terms on the University of Alberta Senate. Through her efforts, SCITCS had donated motorised scooters for the aid of disabled students. She spearheaded the work of the Functional Electrical Stimulator Exercise Clinic in 1993 and a research facility in 2006, both in the University of Alberta. In total SCITCS has raised more than C$1.2 million, which it has donated to the university.

In 2000 a bursary was created in her name for a graduating student with a disability, “in recognition of her dedication to the needs of the spinal cord injured, her pioneering efforts in the acquisition of the functional electrical stimulation technology and in recognition of the leadership in the origin, operation and development of SCITCS.”

Mrs Miller has also produced a book, Daring to Live, which she co-authored in 2000. In her words: “It describes how the human spirit can overcome just about everything, no matter how devastating.”

Presenting her CMA award, president Brian Day described Mrs Miller’s work for the advancement of medical research, health care and education as “inspirational”. She is the 25th winner of the award.

She has also received many honours for her work from various organisations from television stations, the YWCA, Toyota, the University of Alberta and the Rotary Club. In 2000 she was invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

If anyone would like to contact Mrs Miller her email address is: lamjamgra@shaw.ca

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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