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American Association for Physician Leadership
American Association for Physician Leadership

Knowing Your Worth

by Sue Miller, MD, FAAP

January 8, 2023


A neonatologist shares the rewards and challenges of her career path.

Caring for children can be some of the most rewarding and challenging work — as can being a female physician leader. Sue Miller, MD, FAAP, has welcomed the challenges along her career path and doesn’t regret a single decision. She shares her story here.

How did you choose your specialty of neonatology?

I always knew that I wanted to be a physician. For third-grade career day, my dad made me a nametag that read “Dr. Susie Natalzia, Pediatrician.” As I got older, I thought I wanted to be an Ob/Gyn and had an opportunity to shadow a family friend in the hospital for labor and delivery. I quickly learned that I was more interested in the baby after delivery than the mother. That was the start of my love for neonatology, and to be honest, I still love babies.

How and when did you decide that physician executive leadership was the career path you wanted to pursue?

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to become the neonatology fellowship director at Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan. My division chief, Dr. Jeff Perlman, was an amazing mentor for me and gave me so much opportunity. I loved being a leader and saw a future in leadership.

Unfortunately, my son, who is autistic, was struggling and I needed to have more balance in my career for him, and that wasn’t conducive to the track I was on at Cornell. As a two-career family, my husband and I have always had to make tough choices based on our values of family first.

Fast forward about six years and I found my current practice, Onsite Neonatal Partners, where I entered as a medical director knowing that I could have the leadership I craved in my career and still be present for my family. Through Onsite, I was given the opportunity to work toward my CPE with the AAPL. This has opened up a new world for me. I have learned so many new skills and the classes continue to help me grow as a medical director and physician leader in my community.

Was there a particular hurdle you had in your leadership path? What was the outcome and impact on your career?

After I left Cornell, I took a position as a neonatologist in a private practice in an area close to family. As time went on, I began taking on various duties that a medical director would be doing, as we didn’t have a local medical director. I was told that I would become the medical director, but that the team wasn’t ready yet. Finally, when I had an offer from Onsite to move and become their medical director, the president of my practice tried to delay my decision. He asked what my husband would be doing if we moved. I explained he would quit and find a new position in Greenville.

At the time, my husband was a college dean. He was known throughout the state for his research agenda and was on a very exciting career path. In addition, one of my colleagues, who had also wanted to be medical director, told me that he didn’t think I was leadership material, and I should just focus on my family.

That was when I realized that I wanted to work for a group where I saw other people like me at the table. Onsite is a rare private practice in neonatology where women make up the majority of the executive leadership team. As a woman, I have faced many instances in which people have underestimated me, and I never let it stop me. I took the new position as medical director because I am a leader.

As I expected, my husband has landed very nicely in an executive leadership position at a local college.

In looking back, are there any decisions you would have made differently in medical school or in residency – fellowship?

Honestly, no. Every choice I made, from what programs I went to through the various positions I have held, have all led me to my current role as medical director with Onsite Neonatal Partners. I work at St. Francis Eastside Hospital, which is part of Bon Secours Mercy Health, and I have an amazing team of nurses, physicians, and hospital administrators whom I get to work with every day. I feel lucky to have found this gem!

What recommendations do you have for other women who aspire to successful careers in medicine and/or physician leadership?

Know your worth. If someone is telling you that you aren’t good enough, if they aren’t building you up and bringing out your best, then they aren’t the right people to surround yourself with.

Sue Miller, MD, FAAP

Sue Miller, MD, FAAP

Neonatologist with Onsite Neonatal Partners

Medical Director of St. Francis Eastside Hospital Neonatal Care Unit

Greenville, South Carolina

Member since 2020

For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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