It's safe to say that not many businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands fear having customers seek services elsewhere, but that's what Rodney Miller was up against when he became president and chief executive officer of St. Thomas-based Roy Lester Schneider Hospital five years ago.
It was no paradise at the time. The Joint Commission had never accredited the hospital, and people often traveled off the island when they needed medical care.
Since Miller's arrival though, revenue has doubled, the 123-bed hospital has been accredited and re-accredited by the Joint Commission, a state-of-the-art $20 million cancer center has been completed and the overall perception of the hospital in the community has greatly improved, says Amos Carty Jr., the hospital's chief operating officer and general counsel.
"For somebody of his age, (Miller) carries himself, he governs, he has the respect of somebody much more his senior," Carty says. "He's one of a kind."
When he was named an Up & Comer in 2002, the then-30- year-old Miller was already an accomplished healthcare executive with a successful naval career behind him. While in the Navy— where he went from deck seaman to administrator of the medical and dental practice—he came across a brochure for the management- training program at the Institute for Diversity in Health Management. After completing the program, he landed an administrative resident's position at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
When still in his 20s, Miller was credited with turning around and selling a financially struggling rehabilitation division of Memorial Health, in Savannah, Ga. He then oversaw Memorial Health's cardiovascular unit, a division with a $70 million operating budget at the time. Moving into his 30s, he became the first alumnus of the diversity institute to reach the rank of CEO, according to the institute's then-president and CEO, Rupert Evans Sr. Now 35, Miller has transformed the St. Thomas hospital into the renamed Schneider Regional Medical Center, which reflects the integration of the hospital, an ambulatory- care facility it operates in nearby St. John, and the new cancer institute. Patients can access their records from any of the facilities, and their infrastructures are linked. "This was one of his major goals: having a seamless delivery of healthcare throughout the system," Carty says.
What is most striking about Miller is his ability to build bridges both with patients and industry insiders, colleagues say. He has been known to handle patient complaints himself, and he has worked steadily to build up the hospital's reputation as a "clean and friendly" facility.
"He's able to connect with every stakeholder when it comes to healthcare," Carty says. "Mr. Miller can connect with policymakers and explain the most difficult technical policy issues to them, but he can also relate one-on-one to patients."