Steven Miller was born and raised in Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec, a demographically unique proximate suburb of Montreal. After achieving expedited entry into medical school, Steven received his medical degree from McGill University in 1995 and completed his residency in pediatric neurology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in 2000, where he gratefully acknowledged the educational influences of Gordon Watters, Frederick Andermann, Bernard Rosenblatt, Michael Shevell and Chantal Poulin. Steven’s future promise and impact was evident by his being awarded the Holmes Gold Medal for his graduating class, indicating his rank as the top student over the entire 4 year medical school curriculum. Quite a feat as McGill is Canada’s top-ranked Medical-Doctoral university. He further excelled in his residency by publishing, remarkably, 15 peer-reviewed papers during his pediatric neurology training.
Following residency training, Steven went to UCSF to follow his passion in neonatal neurology where he undertook a combined clinical and research fellowship with former Sachs Awardee, Donna Ferriero. This was followed by Faculty appointments first at UCSF, then at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and from 2012 till 2022 at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto). While in Vancouver, Steven held a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Neonatal Neuroscience and a Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Clinician-Scientist Award. The move to Toronto saw Steven being awarded the Bloorview Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Neuroscience and promotion to Full Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto. He also assumed the Directorship of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC), replacing former Sachs Awardee, O. Carter Snead III (2005), as well as the Headship of the Centre for Brain & Mental Health at HSC.
The Sachs Award is meant to recognize an individual of “international stature” for “leading research in neuroscience with relevance to the care of children with neurological disorders”. Steven’s body of research has been driven by his passion to improve the care and outcome of the vulnerable at-risk infants who populate our NICUs and bear a disproportionate burden of morbidity encountered in clinical pediatric neurology practice. Steven has utilized cutting edge, and continually evolving, imaging techniques and modalities to further our understanding of disturbed brain development in not one, but three discrete populations of interest that collectively form the majority of at-risk newborns; preterm infants, infants with congenital heart disease, and term asphyxiated newborns. Through carefully designed protocols coupled with well-defined longitudinal clinically relevant outcomes, Steven has demonstrated in each of these groups the influence of modifiable environmental factors encountered in clinical care on brain structure and function. These environmental factors have included infections, cardiorespiratory parameters, and the frequency of painful procedures experienced by a critically ill newborn. Most recently, his research draws attention to the importance of social disparities to understanding why neonates with similar brain injuries often have widely divergent neurological outcomes. For each of these factors identified, clinical applicability is evident that, when applied to the NICU care setting, will improve outcomes for a significant subset of children who eventually experience neurodevelopmental disabilities. Taken together, his research has established the “importance of the everyday” experience of critically ill newborns on brain development and subsequent neurodevelopmental outcomes.
Standard metrics testify to Steven’s research impact. Over 220 peer reviewed publications, over 25 chapters/invited papers (including the chapter on hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in the term newborn in the 6th Edition of Swaiman’s definitive textbook, and the chapter on white matter injury in Avery’s Textbook of Neonatology), and one co-edited reference book on acquired brain injury in the fetus and newborn. His h index is currently 80, his papers have been cited over 20,000 times, and he currently has 67 papers with more than 100 citations. Steven has received numerous operating grants from both North American national granting agencies (NIH/NIHNDS, CIHR) as well as varied Foundations (March of Dimes, Gerber, American Heart Association). Of particular note is his role as one of three co-Principal Investigators of the Child-BRIGHT Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) network. This is a $25 million dollar 5-year grant that represents the largest dollar value child health research effort in Canadian history. This national network features as its raison d’etre family engagement to drive a research program in brain-based disabilities targeting challenges relevant to the lives of affected families. He has also been appointed by his peer community to the Institute Advisory Board of the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Institute of Human Development and Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH), and now serves as its Vice-Chair. This is the highest level of pediatric research governance nationally in Canada. He is presently an Associate Editor of Pediatric Research, one of child health’s leading research-focused journals.
The secret for Steven’s extraordinary success as a researcher is his ability to leverage his intelligence and passion to work collaboratively. He is skilled at bringing together and creating complementary teams that involve families, clinicians, basic scientists, imaging experts (acquisition & analysis), and rehabilitation professionals. He is always thinking about the next question to be asked, extrapolating both from the acquired science and the observations of an astute clinician. These attributes are also evidenced in his leadership activities. For example, the Centre for Brain & Mental Health at HSC that he led for a decade of stupendous growth now brings together over 1500 faculty, staff and trainees to collaboratively improve the brain health and mental health children and youth.
Steven’s excellence and leadership has been recognized by numerous awards including the Physician Researcher Award for Scientific Accomplishment HSC (2021), Newburger-Bellinger Award (2016), the Prichard Award from the International Child Neurology Association (2014), the Young Alumni Award from the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University (2011), and the Medal in Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada (2010). Most recently, he was awarded the 2021 Children’s Healthcare Canada Award for Individual Leadership for his efforts to improve the health of children nationally.
The Sachs Awardee must also be an “outstanding teacher and scholar”. A testament to Steven’s teaching ability that is self-evident is his frequent national and international speaking invitations, which number over 80 in the past 5 years alone. He is a sought out mentor and graduate studies and fellowship supervisor. He has also contributed enormously to his scholarly community, having served as President of the prestigious Society for Pediatric Research (2013-2014) and Chair of the CNS Scientific Program Committee (2009-2011). Steven is passionate about fostering the success of academic Child Neurologists in North America and beyond. He has trained over 35 neonatal neurology fellows; his graduates are presently thriving in diverse academic faculty roles. His colleagues have recognized his education contributions with the 2019 CanMEDS Excellence award. As his long-time mentor, I have been especially proud of his thorough commitment to mentorship through continually fostering the career development of his trainees across multiple levels of experience and a number of disciplines.
Recently Steve has begun a new phase in his personal and professional trajectory, having assumed in April 2022 the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia and Pediatrician-in-Chief at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital. Given his intelligence, passion and energy, one can only anticipate an impactful and transformative mandate at this institution.
His professional world aside, Steve is a devoted family man. He has an extraordinary life partnership with Mina Matsuda-Abedini, a highly respected pediatric nephrologist. Together they have raised two children, Hana and Sam. Hana is starting university studies at McGill University and Sam is a high school student. Steve can without fail be found in attendance in support of their extra-curricular activities.