PUBLIC SERVICE RECOGNITION WEEK-ANNE MILLER
Whether in the lab or a courtroom, Miller makes a difference in children's lives
Anne Miller has devoted her career _ and much of her free time _ to helping Virginia's children.
For more than 27 years, she has worked in the newborn screening lab at the Department of General Services' Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS). In her down time, she has advocated on behalf of more than 50 children over more than 20 years as a Richmond Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a program through the Greater Richmond Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN).
"I like to think that I'm making a difference," she said.
Miller has witnessed Virginia's newborn screening program grow dramatically over her nearly three decades at DCLS. The lab screens all babies born in Virginia for rare metabolic and genetic disorders. Babies with these disorders look healthy at birth but can suffer devastating consequences, even death, if the disorder goes untreated. All it takes is five drops of blood from a baby's heel to perform the tests.
When Miller came in the lab in 1992, it screened for seven disorders. Today, scientists work seven days a week looking for 31 primary disorders and numerous secondary disorders that can be detected through the screening.
The program is a partnership between DCLS and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). If the lab confirms an abnormal result, it alerts VDH, whose nurses work with the baby's pediatrician to ensure prompt treatment.
As a senior scientist, Miller helps ensure results are reported quickly and accurately.
"I might not know the babies or know the parents, but I feel like this is a good service that is offered by the state and it is rewarding to be a part of that," Miller said. "The co-workers that I work with, we all treat these babies as if they were our own."
Miller, like others in the lab, performs a variety of tasks, including everything from examining samples to setting up trays and reagents.
"We're a strong group because everyone is able to do all those things," she said.
Wanda "Willie" Andrews, Director of Laboratory Operations, called Miller a "wonderful resource," and someone the lab counts on to help train and mentor new staffers.
"She is a wealth of knowledge and information and a mentor. It is just so great to have folks who can be our anchors, who can provide that institutional knowledge," Andrews said. "We really appreciate everything that Anne does for newborn screening and DCLS and for her years of service."
Miller said Virginia treats its children very well, from the newborn screening program, to programs for foster children, and the work she sees in the court system as a CASA.
As a CASA, Miller advocates for abused and neglected children before the Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Once she takes on a case, she is responsible for visiting the child at least twice a month, as well as meeting with the parents, family members and attorneys on the case. She collects records related to the child and parents, writes court reports to include recommendations for the child and parents, and attends court hearings for the child.
Blair Bedinger, a Richmond CASA case manager who has worked with Miller for over five years, said Miller embodies what it means to be a "dedicated, committed and caring volunteer."
"Anne has many great qualities that make her a stand-up volunteer, but she excels at being reliable, working hard, connecting with people from all walks of life, taking constructive feedback and applying it to her volunteer work, and being willing to help people in any way she can," Bedinger said.
Miller started with CASA in 1998. Not long after, Miller's mother passed away and she was unable to visit the child she was working with in a neglect case for a few weeks. When she returned, the girl asked Miller where she had been and Miller explained what had happened.
"She looked at me and said, 'That's all right. I'll share my mom with you.' I knew then, I loved this work. I knew this is what I'm supposed to be doing," Miller said.
She understands not everyone has time to volunteer, but Miller encourages those who are interested to visit the CASA website to learn more.
"Kids are in need of a voice for them in court more often than you think," she said. "You need no particular skills. CASA will train you. They will make sure that you're equipped to do all that you need to do in this area. All you need is just a heart for kids and a desire to help."
Miller received the Volunteer Award from the Greater Richmond SCANin 2018. The volunteer coordinator frequently invites her to speak to prospective volunteers.
"She truly represents what it means to be a public servant," Bedinger said.
Miller, 65, considered herself in public service since she was a child in her Richmond neighborhood. Her grandmother would "loan" her to neighbors when they needed someone to go to the store or run an errand.
"If anything was going on, I was the go-to little girl in the neighborhood," she said. "Back in those days we helped each other out."
Miller is encouraged by the interest she sees in public service, particularly in public health. She says there are many opportunities in public health to change lives.
"You're making a difference in someone's life," she said. "You might not know them, but you're affecting them."