Cardiovascular Medicine
Designatory Letters: 
BSc Edin 1964, MB Edin 1966

(Contributed by Nick Boon)

Hugh Miller was an outstanding clinical cardiologist who devoted his life to the service of others and was a great supporter of the College of Physicians in Edinburgh.

He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and was awarded a first class Honours degree in Pharmacology before qualifying in 1966. He did House jobs on the Professorial Units at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and after completing additional training posts in Edinburgh, Duke University, North Carolina, and the Brompton Hospital, London, returned to the Royal Infirmary as a consultant cardiologist in 1975.

He then turned the Department of Cardiology into a world class unit that reflected the importance he placed on expert patient care, teamwork, training and teaching. He was the ‘consultant in administrative charge’ from 1982 to 1995 but always described himself as ‘consultant with administrative responsibility’.

From the outset his overriding priority was to provide the best possible service for patients. In this respect Hugh was way ahead of his time and it is remarkable that Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) guidelines and documents such as the 2005 Scottish Coronary Heart Disease Strategy Action Plan recommend adopting many of the practices that he pioneered 25 years ago. These include one-stop outpatient clinics, day-case investigation and treatment units, safety checklists, and regular multi-disciplinary meetings.  

He developed a special interest in arrhythmias, electrophysiology and artificial cardiac pacing and introduced many new treatments and investigations, such as radiofrequency ablation, to the Scottish Health Service. These procedures were technically very demanding and required complex and potentially very expensive equipment. Always conscious of the need to provide value for money Hugh built some of the necessary equipment, with the help of in-house engineers and technicians, himself. He also launched an appeal to raise funds for the department that brought in almost a million pounds in its first few years and ensured he was able to keep the department at the cutting edge of new developments.

Although he did not consider himself to be an academic Hugh was responsible for the world’s first and ultimately hugely influential clinical trial of artificial heart valves (N Engl J Med 1991; 324: 73–9). This was an extraordinarily complex project that was characteristically completed with the minimum of fuss and expense, costing a tiny fraction of similar studies.

He became a Fellow of The Edinburgh College of Physicians in 1979 and participated in many of the College’s educational events and seminars. He served on many important committees including the Joint Committee on Higher Medical Training and was President of the Scottish Cardiac Society from 1995-7.

Hugh was appointed Clinical Sub Dean, with special responsibility for teaching and mentoring, at the University of Edinburgh in 1999. He was a superb and very popular teacher who taught by example. Medical students, junior doctors and many consultants benefitted from his extensive knowledge and experience but most importantly were also shown the importance of putting the patient first and adhering to the highest professional standards. There is hardly a hospital in Scotland without a consultant that trained with Hugh Miller so we will all continue to benefit from his influence and expertise.

Given his many professional achievements one might think that Hugh had no time for life outside the hospital. That would be wrong because he was a devoted husband and father and loved to be outdoors. He was a very accomplished skier and enjoyed climbing, cycling, sailing and camping.

He liked to fix things at home using his ‘surgeon’s’ hands and was a very skilled woodworker. His retirement present was a lathe which he used to make some beautiful pieces of furniture.

Hugh was very sadly robbed of the active retirement that he had planned and deserved by head injuries sustained in a freak mountain biking accident in the Highlands seven years ago. He died of lymphoma at home on 26 February.

Hugh was a much loved husband to Isobel, Father to Jamie and Catherine and Grandpa to Fergus, Leo, Lucian and Frieda. He also leaves behind an army of grateful patients, many friends, and a formidable force of consultant cardiologists who he trained in the best possible way.

This article is an amended version an obituary that was first published in
The Scotsman on Friday 5th April 2013