Girl Scout alumna Dr. Redonda Miller is president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is the first woman to hold that post since the hospital was founded in 1889. Dr. Miller first came to Johns Hopkins as a medical student and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She served as an assistant chief of service in 1996 and the following year joined the School of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor of medicine. She distinguished herself as a collaborator, with great success in developing councils and committees to bring people and ideas together, and to address challenges and solve problems Dr. Miller has served in a number of positions, including associate program director of the Osler Medical Residency Training Program, assistant dean for student affairs for the School of Medicine, and vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Medicine. She earned her MBA from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
Who or what (maybe it was a news story, or an event or meeting someone in person) influenced your career choice?
As a freshman at The Ohio State University, I had every intention of becoming an engineer. However, as I pursued my studies, a near-tragedy from my teenage years kept tugging at me.
When I was in high school, my parents began feeling very lightheaded and nauseated after dinner one night. Within 20 minutes, they were barely arousable on the bathroom floor. I remember watching the rescue squad perform CPR on my father, and both of my parents ultimately spent many days in the intensive care unit at our local hospital. We later discovered that they had inadvertently been poisoned by an expired pesticide used on the garden at our house. The EMTs on the rescue squad and the physicians at the hospital saved their lives. As I delved deeper into my studies at Ohio State, I realized that I wanted to work in a profession where I, too, could help save lives and thus changed my major to pre-med.
Do you or have you had a mentor to help guide you through your professional journey?
I’ve had a varied career, beginning in clinical care, research, and education, and pivoting to administration nearly 15 years ago. I feel fortunate to have had many mentors who guided me at different stages and through different tracks of my career.
For example, after I had worked on the academic side of medicine for about a decade, I returned to school and obtained my M.B.A. because I was interested in working to improve the system within which healthcare providers worked. Fresh off my new degree, I set up a meeting with my boss, the Chair of the Department of Medicine, and asked him for a project that would allow me to exercise my new skills. I knew that I needed some practical experience to propel me forward on this new career path. He did give me a project – nothing glamorous, but one I embraced fully. My success in completing that project led to my first administrative role, and the Chair of the Department of Medicine became one of my biggest supporters and a valued mentor moving forward.
What was the best piece of advice you have received and why was the advice good for you?
Build collaborative relationships with your colleagues. Working in teams composed of individuals with varying expertise and points of view often leads to the best possible outcomes for the organization. Seek input from all and try to drive consensus, where possible. In medicine, a field that rarely offers clear-cut answers, this approach has been particularly valuable.
What do you think is the best way to encourage the next generation of women professionals to become leaders in their industry/profession, politics or community?
We women tend to doubt our own abilities. We undersell what we have to offer, and we play down what we can add to the conversation. We look at that opportunity right in front of us, become nervous and think, “I can’t do it, and I won’t get it anyway.” I often tell my mentees: Push past your comfort zone and push yourself to succeed.
Seeing the names and pictures of women in leadership roles and hearing about their journeys will both encourage girls to pursue their dream jobs and show them that they can balance career success and have fulfilling home lives. In addition, providing mentorship to those who come after us is crucial. Advice from women leaders who have “been there” and have experience in navigating career ladders, work-life balance, and a host of other issues facing women is important for the next generation.
Are you a former Girl Scout? Has it impacted your career—do you employ any of the skills you gained as a Girl Scout?
I am! I was a Brownie and a Junior Girl Scout. I can say without a doubt that the skills I gained through scouting have stayed with me throughout my career. Skills such as seeking challenges, learning from setbacks, and displaying positive values all came straight from the Girl Scout handbook. They build the foundation for leadership.
In my day, there was great emphasis on earning badges. To do so, one had to demonstrate perseverance, dedication, and mastery of a topic. These qualities are easily transferable to other pursuits in life. Above all else, being part of a Girl Scout troop – a group larger than yourself – taught me to develop positive relationships with others and to function within a team. These skills have served me well, no matter the setting.
Is there a saying or quote that captures who you are, your work ethic or beliefs that you want to share with others to inspire or encourage them?
I love this quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In my business and in personal relationships, it is so important to treat each other with respect – to make sure that everyone’s efforts and opinions are acknowledged and valued. From a leadership perspective, we know that these types of positive, affirming interactions result in a more engaged – and happier – workforce. Not to mention, it feels good to support and encourage others.
The Girl Scout leadership program impacts girls and young women by inspiring them to change ‘Can I?” to “I will!” The proof is in the results. Girl Scout alumna are running businesses, making strides in STEM fields and using their voices to influence politics. Over 80% of today’s business women and 68% of women members of congress are Girl Scout alumna.