First-hand connections help prepare Miller for medical career

Casey Miller, a senior at Mitchell High School, is one of four University of South Dakota Alumni Student Scholars for 2020, intending to become a physician in South Dakota. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Casey Miller has been building connections.

Whether it's been in classes or clubs at school or through interactions he’s had with some of Mitchell’s leading physicians, Miller knows how a career as a family medicine physician can combine his interests in community and helping people.

Those traits are apparent with Miller, an 18-year-old senior at Mitchell High School, and were among the primary reasons he was a selection for the University of South Dakota’s Alumni Student Scholars Program, which annually selects four incoming students who intend to study medicine and practice as a physician in South Dakota. The program also gives him a jump start at joining the Sanford School of Medicine at USD when his undergraduate education is complete, saving him a spot in the medical school class.

“It’s been nice to get to understand a number of different viewpoints,” Miller said. “You get to see what that kind of work means to the community, and what it means from a business standpoint, from a health care standpoint. You learn what kind of difference you can make.”

Miller, 18, has a leading role in MHS’ Pen Pals group, in which students write letters back and forth with fifth-graders monthly. He’s also been involved with the local chapters of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). He also plays tennis and has a second-degree black belt in taekwondo.


His mother, Kay, is a veterinarian, which allowed him to see how medical care can benefit animals as early as age 5, he said. In 2019, he had the chance to visit National Student Leadership Conference at Harvard Medical School in Boston, representing MHS and learning about various issues related to health care and leadership.

Miller, who lives in Fulton, shadowed physicians for past year-and-a-half, including retired Dr. Martin Christensen and Dr. Michael Gerlach at the Mitchell Clinic. He was also able to observe a number of specialities last summer, including general surgery, dermatology and anesthesia. Miller appreciates that local physicians have the opportunity to stay with patients for their entire life, which is why he’d like to focus on family medicine for his career.

“You are able to build a connection that is pretty special,” Miller said. “You can offer a recommendation, and if they’re working with a specialist, they come back to you and you can see first-hand how those patients are progressing.”

Miller said he’d like to practice in Mitchell, if possible, when he’s done with his schooling. He said he enjoyed his time around Gerlach, who keeps a busy appointment schedule, meaning he got to see a lot of patients in a short amount of time.

“Each experience was great,” Miller said. “You could see just how hard he works and how he puts in the work to get to know his patients very well.”

As a high school senior dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Miller said he misses the opportunity to hang out with his friends daily. He said classes like chemistry and physics have changed dramatically with the move to online delivery and without hands-on lab sessions.

But he said he understands why his final year of school has been turned upside down.

“I think it’s just kind of crazy,” Miller said. “I think you approach things from a more rational standpoint, and really take things week by week or day by day.”

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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