Sur­geon ‘took on the most chal­leng­ing’ cases

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - OBITUARIES - By Gray­don Me­gan Gray­don Me­gan is a free­lance reporter.

Dr. Ed­ward Mil­lar was an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon who first came to Shriners Hos­pi­tals for Chil­dren — Chicago as a med­i­cal stu­dent in the early 1940s, worked there for many years when staff doc­tors were vol­un­teers and be­came the hos­pi­tal’s first paid chief of staff in 1976.

The North­west Side hos­pi­tal fo­cuses on a wide range of pe­di­atric or­tho­pe­dic con­di­tions, in­clud­ing rare dis­eases and syn­dromes, and ser­vices are pro­vided re­gard­less of a fam­ily’s abil­ity to pay. Mil­lar helped add and ex­pand pro­grams and staff to re­flect the changes in med­i­cal care of chil­dren in the late 1970s helped lead the con­struc­tion of a new hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Peter Smith, who worked with Mil­lar for about 20 years.

“He par­tic­u­larly took on the most chal­leng­ing and com­plex cases from through­out the Mid­west at the new hos­pi­tal,” Smith said.

Mil­lar, 99, died of nat­u­ral causes Jan. 3 in North­brook Inn in North­brook, ac­cord­ing to his daugh­ter, Becky Mil­lar. Since 1969, he and his wife, Dorothy, who sur­vives him, lived on a 50-acre farm in Lib­er­tyville, where they raised their 10 chil­dren as well as horses, dogs and bees.

Mil­lar was born in 1920 in Wood­ward, Alabama. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, he went to med­i­cal school at North­west­ern Univer­sity. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 1945, he went into the Navy and served briefly in China.

At war’s end, he re­turned to Chicago. In med­i­cal school, he had met Dr. Harold Sofield, then Shriners’ chief of staff. He com­pleted a res­i­dency that in­cluded time at Shriners in 1947 and be­gan work­ing at the hos­pi­tal as an at­tend­ing physi­cian in 1950.

Mil­lar suc­ceeded Sofield as chief of surgery in 1965 and in 1976 be­came the first full-time paid chief of staff.

In ad­di­tion to his work at Shriners, Mil­lar main­tained an ac­tive pri­vate prac­tice in gen­eral or­tho­pe­dic surgery, work­ing at Evanston Hos­pi­tal, Swedish Covenant Hos­pi­tal and Ed­ward Hines, Jr. VA Hos­pi­tal, west of Chicago.

“He was a rel­a­tively quiet man … but cer­tainly was a de­ter­mined in­di­vid­ual,” said Dr. Kim Ham­mer­berg, who met Mil­lar in 1979 while in a res­i­dency pro­gram in pe­di­atric ortho­pe­dics at Shriners. “His goal was to try to make Shriners Hos­pi­tal avail­able to any child or child’s fam­ily that needed or­tho­pe­dic care.”

Ham­mer­berg said un­der Mil­lar’s lead­er­ship, pro­grams in cleft lip and palate treat­ment were de­vel­oped, along with a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram for spinal cord in­juries in chil­dren.

Bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer Ger­ald Har­ris met Mil­lar in 1981 when he pro­posed a re­search pro­gram study­ing spas­tic­ity — mus­cle tight­ness and rigid­ity — and treat­ment ef­fects in chil­dren and young adults with cere­bral palsy.

“Dr. Mil­lar was a huge fac­tor in that … and was amaz­ingly em­pow­er­ing for peo­ple in­ter­ested in help­ing those kids,” said Har­ris, now di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Mo­tion Anal­y­sis at Shriners in Chicago.

Har­ris said the pro­gram in­cluded weekly con­fer­ences that brought to­gether sur­geons from all over the city. Mon­day morn­ing rounds in­cluded en­gi­neers, ther­a­pists, sur­geons and res­i­dents, all fo­cused on eval­u­at­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the best treat­ments to give chil­dren the best care pos­si­ble.

“Dr. Mil­lar was just an in­cred­i­ble in­di­vid­ual who was able to bring peo­ple to­gether, rec­og­nize their tal­ents and strengths and rec­og­nize their pas­sion for help­ing kids,” Har­ris said.

Ham­mer­berg said Mil­lar was an in­spi­ra­tional leader whose use of apho­risms could be trig­gered when he thought some­one needed to step up or make a de­ci­sion. If a sub­or­di­nate be­came too in­de­pen­dent, Mil­lar would re­mind him or her, “Around here, the tail don’t wag the dog, doc-y.”

He would also re­mind oth­ers when a de­ci­sion was needed, it was time “to quit cut­ting bait and start to fish.”

In a Shriners spe­cial pub­li­ca­tion mark­ing the Chicago hos­pi­tal’s 90th an­niver­sary in 2016, Mil­lar talked about his ap­proach to the mis­sion.

“We take a per­sonal in­ter­est in each child who comes here,” he said then. “Their prob­lems are our prob­lems. Through surgery, med­i­ca­tions, ther­apy, or what­ever means we know, we want every child’s life to be the best it can pos­si­bly be.”

Becky Mil­lar said her Dad was clear about his de­vo­tion to his young pa­tients.

“He ab­so­lutely loved work­ing with the chil­dren,” she said. “He loved ev­ery­thing about Shriners — that was his life.”

In ad­di­tion to his wife and daugh­ter, Mil­lar is also sur­vived by three other daugh­ters, Delse Mil­lar Busse, Marcy Mil­lar Fal­duto and Chris Mil­lar Ho­gan; six sons, Randy, Bob, Rick, Tom, Wally and Ron; 27 grand­chil­dren; and 19 great-grand­chil­dren.

Ser­vices were held.


Dr. Ed­ward Mil­lar grad­u­ated in 1945 from med­i­cal school at North­west­ern Univer­sity.

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