Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

August 12, 2008 19:24 ET

CMA Awards Medal of Honour to Louise Miller

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 12, 2008) - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2008 CMA Medal of Honour to Louise Miller, co-founder of the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Center Society in Alberta.

"The CMA Medal of Honour recognizes personal contributions to advancing medical research and education," said CMA President Dr. Brian Day. "Louise Miller's dedication to the advancement of medical research, health care and health education related to spinal cord injuries is nothing short of inspirational. She is a very worthy recipient of this award."

In 1965 she and her family immigrated to Red Deer, Alta., where she worked as a registered nurse. She was awarded a B.Sc. in nursing (1972) and later earned a MBA degree. In 1978 Mrs. Miller became the first female non-politician elected to the board of directors of Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital, serving 5 years of her 6-year term as vice-chair.

A spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia in 1984 served as a catalyst for Mrs. Miller's subsequent 20+ years of advocacy for people with disabilities and, in particular, those with spinal cord injuries. Her positive attitude and indomitable spirit are an inspiration to those who cross her path.

"I have never stopped for a second to think that I can't do something - I have always thought that I could find a way to get it done," said Mrs. Miller

After her injury Mrs. Miller became socially active in her efforts to learn about wheelchair access in Edmonton. She co-chaired the City of Edmonton Custom Transportation Services Advisory Board from 1985 to 1987. At the same time she served as vice-chair of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Edmonton, and as a member of a subcommittee that formed the Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, which continues to fund spinal cord injury research.

When Mrs. Miller chaired the City of Edmonton Task Force on Persons with Physical Disabilities in 1986-87, the committee created a report with 62 recommendations to improve accessibility to services and civic buildings. She subsequently served a 6-year term as chair of the City of Edmonton Advisory Board, newly established to address the recommendations.

Perhaps her greatest achievement is co-founding, in 1987, the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Center Society. The SCITCS mission is "to promote awareness and create opportunities for people affected by spinal cord injuries to enhance their quality of life." The organization works to help others to help themselves, through support, education and research. Mrs. Miller has been the backbone of SCITCS since its inception, providing leadership and direction for the society and volunteering countless hours to its success. This remarkable organization (www.scitcs.org) has just celebrated 21 years of promoting and financially supporting applied research and bringing state-of-the-art technology and research to Alberta.

She spearheaded the creation of the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Exercise Clinic in 1993 and the SCITCS FES Research Facility in 2006, both located at the University of Alberta. The society has donated computerized bicycles and other FES equipment to provide opportunities for those with spinal cord injuries and others to exercise by standing, walking, rowing and cycling. SCITCS has also donated $28,000 to adapt a commercial rowing machine with FES capabilities. In addition, SCITCS has contributed in excess of $1.2 million to the University of Alberta for research and to study the application of FES.

In 2000 the SCITCS board of directors established the Louise Miller University of Alberta Bursary, for a graduating student with a disability, "in recognition of her tireless 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 her leadership in the origin, operation, and development of the SCITCS organization."

Among her other accomplishments is initiation and production of a local bestselling book, Daring to Live, which she helped to author in 2000. In her words, "it describes how the human spirit can overcome just about everything, no matter how devastating." To date, 2000 copies have been printed. Copies are donated to patients with spinal cord injuries and proceeds from sales are donated to SCITCS.

To ensure that persons with a disability maintain their independence, Mrs. Miller was instrumental in the acquisition of 2 fully accessible rental vans in Edmonton. In addition, through her efforts, SCITCS has donated 7 motorized scooters for the use of university students.

One of her recent projects was inspired after the deaths of 2 prominent spinal cord injury advocates due to complications of septicemia. In 2004 she initiated the establishment of an influential subcommittee that included the dean and researchers from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, Capital Health, and the Glenrose

Rehabilitation Hospital to investigate the epidemiology, management and prevention of pressure ulcers. The group completed a literature review in 2005. SCITCS has donated over $100,000 to the University of Alberta to fund research into the prevention of deep pressure ulcers using the application of FES.

"I strongly believe that research, particularly translational research, is the backbone by which people with a spinal cord injury can participate in physical activities to maintain their health while waiting for a cure. This has been my focus for the past twenty plus years," added Mrs. Miller.

Louise Miller has received many honors for her commitment and dedication, including Woman of Vision (ITV-Television); Woman of Distinction (YWCA); the Toyota Never Quit Award; the University of Alberta's Alumni Award of Excellence; and the Alberta Medical Association's Medal of Honor. She was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 2000.

Louise Miller is the 25th recipient of the CMA Medal of Honour, the highest award bestowed upon a person who is not a member of the medical profession. She will receive this award at a special ceremony at the Sheraton Centre in Montreal, QC on Aug. 20th as part of the CMA's 141st annual meeting.

Contact Information

  • CMA
    Lucie Boileau
    Manager, Media Relations
    613-731-8610 or 1-800-663-7336 ext. 1266
    Mobile : 613-447-0866