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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Cleon Miller, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Wednesday, March 12, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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May 18, 1940—February 1, 2000

One of the more remarkable and interesting DOs who practiced in Oregon was Cleon Miller. He was a GP in the truest sense of the word who made a lasting impact on his town, Woodburn, Oregon and fellow DO colleagues.  He was widely admired for his integrity, loyalty to the profession and the versatility of his intellect.

Dr. Miller was born in Lake Blaine, Montana. He was the youngest of eight children. His father, Samuel Miller, was a farmer and jack-of-all-trades.   His natural mother died when Cleon was 18 months old. When his father remarried, his stepmother Cora brought with her two sons and one daughter. His first school years were spent at the Creston, Montana elementary school. When Cleon was six years old, the family moved to a small town near Twin Falls, Idaho called Filer where Cleon completed his early education. In Filer High School, despite working part time jobs Cleon excelled in sports especially football. He was also active in FFA, Key Club, and Boys Club. He graduated from high school in 1958.

 He accepted a football scholarship at the College of Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho and decided to major in zoology. After his first year playing guard he decided that college football took too much time away from his studies and so he worked various jobs to finance the remainder of his education.
While attending college he met Benne Bell June Kurtz. Benne was a second year student when they met.

While in college, Cleon met and began to shadow his uncle Emery Miller, DO who practiced in Nampa, Idaho. At that time and later the State of Idaho had very strict laws regarding the practice of osteopathic medicine.  As in Oregon, their practice was restricted to osteopathic manipulation, simple obstetrics, minor surgery, and no prescription of medication. Cleon was so impressed by the success his uncle was achieving despite these limitations that he decided to become an osteopathic physician himself. Cleon excelled in the sciences and so the premed courses were no problem. He graduated from the College of Idaho in 1962.

By 1962 Cleon had already applied and had been accepted by the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri. He and Benne married prior to starting at Kirksville and the young couple moved to the area.  Benne was able to find a job at the North Eastern Missouri Teacher’s College also in Kirksville. His cousin Lewis Miller was also attending Kirksville at the time. Cleon excelled in medical school and showed an excellent aptitude for diagnosis. His physical strength and coordination and keen interest in manipulation made the mastering of the high velocity, low amplitude methods a natural for him.

It was in the rural setting of the Kirksville school that Cleon began a life long interest in antique clocks and other old collectables. At that time, old clocks that had been gathering dust in barns and attics could be obtained for very little. Exploring and searching for antiques was a wonderful way for him and Benne to relax and take their minds off the rigors of a medical education.

Cleon graduated from Kirksville with honors. He placed second in his class and with such credentials could have his pick of a number of internships. Time was allotted prior to graduation for students to explore locations for internships. The young couple traveled to several states looking for the ideal location and decided on the Shenango
Valley Osteopathic Hospital in Ferrell, Pennsylvania. They lived in Sharpsville. Benne found a job at the Westminister College as a Librarian.
It was here that Cleon met a young surgeon, William Graham, DO who became a lifelong friend.

Upon completion of his internship it was Cleon’s intention to practice in Idaho but because of the restrictive laws in place at the time he decided instead to locate to Oregon. Oregon also provided the same outdoor sport opportunities and osteopathic physicians were permitted full practice rights.   

Initially he joined Ned Davies, DO, in Canby, Oregon but after a year and a half decided to branch out on his own. Early on, Cleon was employed by the State of Oregon to be physician at the McLaren reformatory for boys.  To be closer to this job he and Benne decided to locate in Woodburn.

When local pharmacist learned of Dr. Miller, he in partnership with a local attorney offered to build a clinic building to Dr. Miller’s specifications.  Soon the practice was booming. Dr. Miller’s skill with manipulation plus his training in medicine and obstetrics and gynecology were very much in demand. He always liked to claim that he was the last of the old fashioned DOs.

 During this time he and Benne began to build their family. The first was daughter Jennifer adopted not long after they arrived in Oregon. After Jennifer they adopted Marc, David and Pam. Today, Marc is an osteopathic surgeon practicing in Iowa, David is employed by a metal forging company, Pam is a teacher, and Jennifer is a housewife residing in Pullman, Washington. Raised on a farm they all had daily chores and learned a work ethic that has stayed with them to this day! 

Because of his compassionate and caring manner he attracted the minority groups that had located in the Woodburn area. One of those groups was the Russian Old Believers. This group of Russian speaking people had been persecuted and harassed in many parts of the world until they found the tolerance they sought in Oregon.

One of their practices was that a doctor was not allowed to touch their women in examination.  The husband or father would touch himself to demonstrate where the problem was located in his wife or daughter.
One day a Russian couple brought their eight-year-old son into Dr. Miller’s office. The boy had a temperature of 106 and was acutely ill with pneumonia. Dr. Miller informed the family that the boy needed immediate hospitalization. The parents said no – they would take the boy home and place a family icon at the head of the bed – God will decide!
Dr. Miller stated he would seek a court order to force the boy’ treatment  and finally the parents relented. The boy survived. The Patriarch of  another Russian clan the Kutsevs was so impressed with Dr. Miller that he insisted that all clan members  seek Dr. Miller’s  care for their medical problems. Later he also developed a large Hispanic following as well.

For his hospital work he utilized Eastmoreland General Hospital in Portland. In the early years all of his obstetrical work was at that hospital.  He supported that hospital loyally for many years even after closer MD hospitals had opened to DOs. Over the years he also had a number of osteopathic medical students and interns rotate through his office.

One of Dr. Miller’s passions was farming. Over the years he raised sheep, horses, cattle and mules, Christmas trees, goats, and nursery stock. For parades and other events he had a team of mules that he hitched to a small wagon to give rides to local children. He was an enthusiastic hunter of elk and deer. Some of the most memorable tales about him are of his adventures and misadventures while hunting. He continued to collect and repair clocks. At the time of his death he had accumulated over three hundred antique clocks.

Dr. Miller was a devout Christian and served in many capacities including deacon. He was a member of Kiwanas, and team physician for the Woodburn High School football team. He was the pre-employment examiner for the Oregon State Police and the Woodburn Police Department. For many years he also served as physician at the Oregon State Penitentiary. He performed sports physicals at cost on the children of several of the small elementary schools in the area. He was one of the founders and board member of the Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation.
Despite declining health and ravages of Type II diabetes Dr. Miller faithfully continued to deliver babies and see his patients. His gruff manner and plain clothing would intimidate a stranger but the people he cared for knew that he had a wonderful caring attitude toward his patients and for his family.  

Throughout his career he continued to utilize osteopathic methods and would urge those who wish to pursue a career path in medicine to follow the osteopathic philosophy! 

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