Nov. 16, 2022
‘We refused to lose’: UCalgary staff leader inducted into Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame
You’re sitting on a plane, flying across the country. You’re 18 and you’ve never been to where you’re going, a place where you’ll live for the next four years with a bunch of strangers. You’re about to start a new chapter of your life, and you don’t know where it will take you. For Sue Miller, taking that leap of faith was the best decision she’s ever made.
“No one knew me, I was totally on my own. It was a sense of independence that was scary and exciting, and I never looked back,” says Miller, associate director of strategic operations at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (TI).
Miller is talking about her time at Dalhousie University, where she played soccer for four years while she completed her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Landing in Halifax from Vancouver as a rookie, Miller joined the team that would become the first to win a national gold medal in women’s soccer for Dalhousie. The 1994 team is being inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame on Nov. 19 at the Halifax Convention Centre.
“It was the culmination of the hard work and sacrifice finally being worth it. It was the first major championship I had ever won in my life,” says Miller.
“The team came together at the right time, and we refused to lose,” she says. “It was double overtime, then still no decision and we finally went to a penalty shoot out. It took never giving up, and perseverance. Not this time — no matter what it took, there was no way we were going to lose.”
Soccer kicks off innovative research career in Calgary
Miller moved to complete a master’s degree in medical science for a personal reason: to find a way to fix her own knee. She had two knee injuries from soccer that required surgery and it brought her to UCalgary for the next stage of her career. She continued to play soccer with the Dinos varsity team during graduate school.
“I didn’t want to have metal or plastic in my own knee. I wanted to find another option,” she says. “My whole research focus was exploring a biological treatment option to help young patients like me. It ended up benefiting others and it was successful.”
Led out of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, she found an innovative way to preserve fresh bone and cartilage so it could be transplanted for joint repair. “At the time, these fresh tissue transplants took place within 48 to 72 hours, so being able to extend the storage time up to 30 days allowed for additional testing making it safer for patients, more time to match donors with recipients, and flexibility when scheduling surgery.”
Miller was the manager for the Joint Transplantation Program in the Cumming School of Medicine for almost nine years before she moved into operational roles in medicine and now, the TI. She continues to be involved in the Joint Transplantation Program as an adviser and she spends her personal time coaching her two sons’ soccer teams, as well.
“It’s an incredible honour and I really can’t believe it — we are being inducted with NHL coaches and Olympians, and then there is our little team,” says Miller. “When I was growing up, there were no female soccer stars to look up to. We always had male coaches and male role models — that’s part of why I coach, so young players have women to look up to.”
“Resilience, determination, and grit, I learned it in sport and carried that into other areas of my life,” she says. “Working in orthopedic surgery for 15 years, it allowed me to interact confidently in a male-dominated field and helped me manage challenging situations because of that sports background.
“It’s made me who I am, without question.”
The induction ceremony will be live-streamed for anyone interested in watching on Nov. 19.