November 11, 2022

Adam Milam M.D., Ph.D., from physician to patient – and back again

Adam Milam, M.D., Ph.D., had made it. He’d landed his dream job.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine Class of 2016 graduate is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic Arizona and an associate professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, both in Phoenix. He is also a professor of Practice in the Department of Population Health at Arizona State University.

He’d spent 17 years educating himself to reach this point. In the very first year of his new job, he had a stroke, experiencing first-hand what it was like for his patients to relinquish control to someone else.

Dr. Milam, a self-reported healthy male in his 30s, had been scheduled for an on-call shift at work. (He never sleeps well when he’s on call, he shared).

The next day, a Friday, he felt more fatigued than usual. “That Monday I went back to work and felt better but not myself,” he said.

He thought he had COVID. Or perhaps he was dehydrated. He went to the emergency room at his workplace.

“I’m ruling out the things that could kill me,” he said, remembering the day he headed to the hospital.

He then recalled a dizzy spell from earlier in the week, prompting a brain scan, which revealed a lesion. More tests showed it was not a tumor or an abscess. He had a stroke, brought on by a blood clot created by a heart condition he did not know he was carrying.

He stayed in the hospital three days.

“It definitely makes you a little more empathetic,” he said. “Being there yourself, you definitely put a different light on the entire experience and what it feels like to be a patient. You’re aware of the things that we can do to be better physicians. It gave me a different perspective and made me a better physician.” 

The doctor enjoys a lighter moment at his dream job.

In Detroit, he learned what set Wayne State University School of Medicine apart from other medical schools. He moved to Los Angeles for residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after graduation, serving as the Department of Anesthesiology’s chief resident in 2020. He completed a fellowship in Adult Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology at Cleveland Clinic in 2021. From there, he landed in Phoenix.

He returns to Michigan at least three times a year, most recently in October.

“My education and training at Wayne State University School of Medicine and rotating at the Detroit Medical Center allowed me to hit the ground running when I started my intern year,” he said. “I was able to care for complex patients and understood the impact of social determinants of health on patient outcomes. And I had insight on how to help address some of those social determinants of health. I felt well equipped and more comfortable interacting with patients than my co-residents.”

He joined the WSU Medical Alumni Association Board of Governors as an out-of-state representative this year to thank the School of Medicine, while also supporting students who matriculate after him.

“Members of the alumni association were invaluable when I was a student at the School of Medicine, and after I graduated, both financially through scholarship but also for advice and mentorship,” he said. “I cannot repay the alumni that helped me, but I can help current students by paying it forward.”

Dr. Milam spent the first eight years of his higher education journey at Johns Hopkins University, located in his hometown of Baltimore, where he earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. He is a part-time faculty member in the university’s Department of Mental Health, a position he has held since 2012.

Dr. Adam Milam, far right, appears on stage after receiving his Community Champion Award on Oct. 7.

He was awarded the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association’s Community Champion Award on Oct. 7.  The award is given to alumni and friends of the university who have made outstanding contributions by addressing critical social, economic and environmental needs in society and the community.

“It felt good to receive the award from Johns Hopkins. I consider myself a Hopkins’ kid,” he said. “To be recognized by the JHU Alumni Association is a great honor, especially considering the amazing and impactful work that my fellow alumni are engaged in,” he said. “I was also able to return to campus for the event, which was great given in-person events have been cancelled because of the pandemic. During the day, I was able to serve on two panels discussing some of the work I have done since graduating. And my mentor of 15 years also received an award, which made the occasion even better.”

For more information on applying to the Wayne State University School of Medicine's M.D. program, visit www.med.wayne.edu/admissions.

To learn more about the Medical Alumni Association, visit alumni.med.wayne.edu/medical-alumni-association.

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