Growing up as the middle child in an Iowa farming family of 11 children, Marsha Miller learned about teamwork, getting along with others and hard work-lessons that serve her well as a healthcare executive.
"In a rural Midwestern farm community you're taught a strong work ethic in a team environment when you're very young," says Miller, 38, a senior vice president at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, a 618-bed, three-hospital system north of Chicago in Evanston, Ill., where she also serves at the chief operating officer for the system's faculty practice association, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Medical Group. "You learn to adjust to personality differences and you're taught responsibility and accountability. You develop relationships and you count on those relationships."
Miller was selected as an Up & Comer because of her strong leadership skills, accomplishments and ability to bring out the best in others to achieve common goals.
Her interest in healthcare was sparked by an older sister's pursuit of a master's degree in nursing administration at the University of Iowa, where Miller earned an undergraduate degree in sociology with an emphasis on business. The Distinguished Scholar at the University of Iowa also obtained a master's degree in business administration there and landed her first job as a resident at Memorial Health System, parent company of 405-bed Memorial Hospital of South Bend (Ind.).
"She is one of the most interesting, engaging and trustworthy people you'll ever meet," says Phillip Newbold, Memorial's president and chief executive officer, who says Miller worked in physician office management and managed-care contracting, leaving as an assistant vice president in 1993. "She did such a good job that almost eight years later we're still reaping the dividends of her strong leadership."
In 1993, Miller left Memorial for Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, becoming a director of managed-care contracting and climbing to her current post as senior vice president. Along the way she helped meld into the system four former Humana Health Centers that ENH bought, and now oversees a 450-physician faculty practice association with 50 locations and net revenue of $180 million. During her tenure at Evanston Northwestern, she has converted the medical group's freestanding offices to provider-based, spurring an annual revenue increase of $3.5 million.
Joseph Golbus, M.D., president of the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Medical Group, lauds Miller. "She is an extraordinary judge of talent and ability and has been able to craft a support team of incredibly bright and productive people who work cohesively," he says. "Marsha has the ability to build consensus by getting everyone to buy into the same vision, and her business acumen is better than any I've ever seen."
Evanston Northwestern's President and CEO Mark Neaman says that when Miller began working with the ENH medical group it had 150 physicians. Neaman says Miller's skills in recruiting and retaining physicians were instrumental to the success of the medical group.
"She was dramatically involved in the phenomenal growth of that medical group," Neaman says. He says the group's revenue has increased from about $50 million to $180 million during a five-year period.
"She developed the systems and infrastructure to make that work in dealing with physicians, patients and insurers and in helping us, as a single organization, negotiate with managed-care companies," Neaman says.
He says she also developed the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Independent Practice Association, which includes 450 more nonemployed physicians affiliated with the healthcare system.
At both Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Memorial Health System, Miller says her success is attributable to good timing and a good match.
"Both organizations were looking at developing physician networks as potential areas of growth," she says. "And I was lucky enough to have been there when those opportunities arose. I have a very aggressive, operationally oriented style that serves me well in those situations. If I see an opportunity, I try to take advantage of it for the corporation and try to determine what it will take to make the vision happen."