For Ella Miller, there’s no place like home

Graduate doctorate program. Move back home. Start work Monday.

Ella Miller poses for a portrait at Mountainside Physical Therapy, where she started work in May after moving back to Rappahannock.Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News
Ella Miller poses for a portrait at Mountainside Physical Therapy, where she started work in May after moving back to Rappahannock.

That was Ella Miller’s weekend to-do list after she received her certification in physical therapy from the Medical College of Virginia and became the ninth generation of Millers to cultivate some roots in Rappahannock County. With a Sprint cell phone and a plan to buy a house in the county, at age 25, Miller plans to stay in Rappahannock.

“I really wanted to work here in Rappahannock to become more a part of the community and meet more members of the community just because I love Rappahannock,” Miller said.

She can be found working at Mountainside Physical Therapy on U.S. 211 — a place where she used to work as a technician while earning her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech. Miller said she got “the bug in her ear” for physical therapy during her freshman year at Virginia Tech after she tore the labrum cartilage in her shoulder playing softball.

“My surgeon was amazing but I felt like the people who really played a significant role in my rehab and my recovery were my physical therapists and my trainers,” she said.

When Miller first started her journey at Mountainside seven years ago, Anne Williams, the owner, said she immediately knew that Miller was intelligent and capable.

“The fact that she was raised in Rappahannock is like the icing on the cake because she understands the culture,” Williams said in email.  “And being a ‘farm-girl/rancher’ herself, she understands the atypical type of injuries incurred when one works outside around large animals and equipment.”

As Miller enters her third month of working as a physical therapist for others at the center, her coworker Tinker Lyman, a physical therapy tech, said Miller has already been able to get the best out of patients.

Ella Miller, 25, conducts a physical therapy session with client Marybeth Shankle on a recent afternoon at Mountainside Physical Therapy.Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News
Ella Miller, 25, conducts a physical therapy session with client Marybeth Shankle on a recent afternoon at Mountainside Physical Therapy.

“She’s uplifting to all of the patients and all the staff,” Lyman said. “She’s just a very positive person.”

Miller said her family ties provided the support she needed to move back to the county.

“I can imagine why it would be hard for people who don’t have family ties in Rappahannock,” Miller said. “For me, if I couldn’t save money living here I probably wouldn’t be living here.”

Miller plans to live at home with her parents — Anne Miller, a nurse practitioner, and, D. Brooke Miller, an M.D. — to save enough money to buy a house in the county. Until then, she’ll help run the family cattle farm.

“Housing is tough because it’s expensive,” Miller said.

While her fiance plays baseball for the minor league Detroit Tigers team based in Detroit; the two are saving money in hopes of buying a house in Rappahannock after getting married in October. After that, Miller says the two will save money for a year while they travel with the team.

Looking to the future, Ella said the only thing she would want to change about the county is better cell service. She understands, though, why other young people aren’t drawn to the area.

“There really isn’t a nightlife and it’s 30 minutes to everything,” Miller said. “You have to really experience Rappahannock and grow up here and love the community … to actually move here.”

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