To honor son’s memory, physician strives to make UNTHSC a better place

By Alex Branch

Dr. Mills

John Mills, DO, has led by example all his life.

As a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, he flew reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines, accumulating 832 combat hours.

As a physician, he practiced medicine in West Texas because he saw the scarce medical resources available to people there.

As a longtime UNT Health Science Center faculty member, he founded the university’s correctional medicine program that provides much-needed medical care for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Most recently, he created his fifth endowed scholarship to support the education of UNTHSC students, a commitment he hopes students who receive them will one day reciprocate.

“When I talk to students who receive these scholarships, I always say: ‘Hey, you know, you might be making good money one day. Maybe you’ll consider giving something back to support a student following your path,’” Dr. Mills said.

Jeremiah G. Mills Rural Medicine Scholarship s awarded to medical students with an interest in rural medicine. Last year, Dr. Mills created a scholarship to support a student in the field of Physician Assistant Studies.

Each scholarship is named after Dr. Mills’ son, Jeremiah, who died at age 21 from Ewing’s Sarcoma.

“That’s just something I do to permanently remember him, even when I am gone,” Dr. Mills said.

After serving in Vietnam, Dr. Mills earned his medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. After working as a U.S. Army Master Flight Surgeon, he accepted a job in 1989 at the UNTHSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine because he viewed it as the best preventive medicine program at an osteopathic medical school in the country.

One day, driving home from work, he heard a radio story about a chemistry professor who worked at another university for 30 years. After he died, the university discovered that he left a $1 million estate to support the chemistry department.

“Off a chemistry professor’s salary, he did that,” Dr. Mills remembered thinking. “He made an impact. I wondered what more I could be doing to make an impact.”

With support from family and friends, Dr. Mills began establishing scholarships for TCOM students and PA students. At a January 2018 UNTHSC scholarship dinner, he met several of the students whose education he supports in his son’s memory.

At age 70, Dr. Mills knows he won’t work at UNTHSC forever. But he can leave with no regrets about the impact he made while there.

“I always wanted a transformational relationship with the Health Science Center,” Dr. Mills said. “And I hope every faculty or staff member or student one day looks back and knows he or she did something to help make it a better place.”


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