Though Robert Miller ’59 didn’t find his career path until a few years after graduating from the UB pharmacy school, once he learned about geriatric and long-term care pharmacy practice, he knew he was on to something.
“In the late 1960s, I had gone back to the University at Buffalo. I was thinking about pursuing a PhD in medicinal chemistry. But I’m a people person and I like patient contact,” he recalled. “When I had an opportunity to work in a nursing home and see what was going on, I began to explore what’s behind the aging population and I could see this is where the future of pharmacy practice is: long-term care.”
Miller began working in a long-term care facility in the early 1970s. In 1974, a new federal law was put into place that required pharmacist oversight in skilled nursing facilities.
“That was the beginning for consultant pharmacists to really play a clinical role,” Miller said. “I saw this as a venue where the pharmacist could have a direct and significant impact on the quality of patient care. Our role included evaluating the patient’s medication regimen; we were interacting with the patients directly, triaging with physicians and nurses.”
Getting in on the ground floor of geriatric and long-term care pharmacy meant that in addition to building a successful career in an up-and-coming field, Miller helped to develop the practice of consulting pharmacy in Western New York. He was a clinical instructor in geriatrics and long-term care at the UB pharmacy school for more than 20 years, and continues to be involved with the university.
He founded his own long-term care company, 2121 MPC Health Care Services, which he sold in 1994 to Fay’s Drugs, believing them to be more in line with his patient care philosophy than other potential buyers.
Miller retired in 1998—at least from the day-to-day practice of pharmacy. After spending a few years traveling with his wife, Sharon Pierce Miller, he realized he was not ready to slow all the way down.
“Retirement, in my generation, I think, differs from previous generations in that it’s not so much that you retire. It’s a change in careers,” he said.
In his case, retirement meant becoming a mentor, a consultant, an advocate for challenged small businesses and for his profession, and a philanthropist. In 2005-06 Miller was elected president of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. And his philanthropy and work on behalf of his alma mater have been exceptional. In addition to taking a leading role in raising the funds for a gift from the Class of 1959, Miller has made an unrestricted bequest to the school in his will. He and Sharon are long-standing members of the school’s Willis G. Gregory Society, which honors distinguished donors.
The Millers donated $50,000 to the Pharmacy Building, for the 2121 MPC Health Care Services/Robert and Sharon Miller Patient Assessment and Counseling Room.
“Most pharmacists have been very successful and have a good income,” he said, regarding how important it is for them to remember where their opportunities came from and to help others follow the same path.
Miller notes that with the emerging baby-boomer generation, senior care pharmacy can be an intelligent career choice. The elderly now comprise 13 percent of the population—“a compelling statistic”—and that figure will continue to grow, he said.
“Overall, pharmacy has been a great career,” he said, adding, “I get great satisfaction from being involved with the university. It’s a great institution – I talk to my colleagues across the country and [being a UB graduate] gives me some bragging rights. It is an honor to be part of that community.”