Kim Miller’s Passion for Population Health Brings Change to Dodge County
by Jennifer Florio
Growing up on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, Kim Miller never imagined she’d spend 20 years as president and CEO of rural hospitals like Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, Inc. (BDCH). She was simply doing her part to ensure the welfare of the family’s crops and cattle. Meanwhile, her family was instilling within her a work ethic and business acumen that would shape Kim’s future — and the future of Dodge County.
Kim was introduced to the value of compassionate health care when she saw pictures from her mother’s childhood. At the age of 14, Kim’s mother became very ill with rheumatic heart fever and was hospitalized.
“I think my desire to work in health care was driven by hearing how she survived because of the care she received,” Kim shares. The long stay meant Kim’s mother couldn’t be home for Christmas, and Kim remembers a picture of her surrounded by gifts. “I was impressed that the nurses made sure she had Christmas presents.”
Kim’s health care career began as a nurse at a Pennsylvania hospital. Very quickly, her passion for the health and wellbeing of her community inspired her to make a difference. Identifying opportunities for improvement, Kim sought additional education and transitioned from the bedside to an administrative rolef our years later. Her commitment and dedication to elevating the level of safety and quality available to those who entrust health care providers with their care sparked Kim’s journey to becoming the leader in population health she is today.
In the 20 years Kim worked at that hospital, there were many CEOs who exposed her to a variety of leadership styles. For seven of those years, Peter Hofstetter was CEO. Kim recalls, “I saw from Peter what I wanted to replicate. You could sit and talk to him, and that’s really important. I asked a lot of questions, and he gave me responsibilities that stretched my mind and abilities. I also got to see him make the right decisions for the right reasons, even if they were tough.”
Prepared for that next step, Kim took on the role of CEO in Iowa and North Dakota before becoming president and CEO of BDCH in December of 2006. The experience, wisdom and commitment to improvement Kim brought with her has resulted in better care for patients and introduced a stronger focus on preventive health throughout Dodge County.
“Kim strives to achieve excellence in everything and expects that from those who work with her,” says BDCH’s Chief Operations Officer David Corso, FACHE.
“I think a lot of the improvement we’ve seen in our quality numbers and the amount of national recognition we’ve received for safety and quality are a result of that.”
Working closely with Kim and being mentored by her, David says, “She’s not only a very strong leader; she’s also very caring, empathetic, and approachable. I remember her sharing a patient story with me that really affected her as a person, not just as president and CEO. When she talks about our patients, you can see the compassion for people that drives her each and every day.”
Kim feels so strongly about the quality of care, she often tells her employees, “Think about the patient as the person of the most significant importance to you, and the care you give will be exceptional. That is what every single patient should have.”
Outside of the hospital’s walls, Kim has been known to help aspiring health care students in their pursuit of direction and education. She is also on a mission to help all local residents achieve high well-being, which led BDCH to sponsor a community-wide initiative called Blue Zones Project.
When Kim looks at conditions like diabetes rising on a national level, even in her extended family, and how the prevalence of binge drinking in Dodge County affects people, she feels driven to help reverse those trends. Kim says, “It’s our responsibility to make sure people understand their choices can either make them feel better or worse.”
That’s where Blue Zones Project has really started to make an impact for Dodge County—making healthy choices easier for everyone. “I love how Blue Zones Project looks at the whole environment and everyone is working collaboratively to influence change. Opportunities have been introduced in places like restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and workplaces to make it easier to make the healthy choice.”
The initiative has inspired Kim to make changes in her own life. “I now try to walk and get at least 10,000 steps a day. I also try to eat well. There are times it’s not 100 percent, just like anyone else, but it’s all about choice and moderation.”
Since her days on the family farm, a lot has changed for Kim. However, the strong work ethic appreciation for quality, compassionate care that was deeply embedded in her lives on, helping to improve lives all around her.
“It’s going to take time,” Kim says. “But if people are healthier, they are able to enjoy life more actively, more engaged with family, and have fewer complications from disease. They’re going to potentially have a more fulfilled and happier life.” When they look back on their life, that’s what Kim wants people to see—a life well lived.