Bartley Miller took a call from a physician at 11:30 one night and stayed on the phone for 45 minutes. The doctor, who was one of Miller’s clients, had made a mistake in surgery and Miller was no longer just an insurance broker but also a counselor.
“Doctors are human…they make mistakes,” says Miller. “That statistic about every doc being sued at least once in their career for malpractice? It’s true…100 percent true.”
Miller (BBA ‘06) shielded quarterbacks from harm as an offensive lineman at Georgia, but has now turned his attention to protecting the medical community. If a malpractice suit has merit, claims should be approached honestly, says Miller. But, in his opinion, the majority of malpractice cases should not be filed and there has to be a firewall — and he is that firewall.
Miller works for Marietta-based Sterling Risk Advisors, and he insures 85 doctors in Athens alone — roughly 25 percent of the private practice physicians in town. He is a principal in a company that also employs his father, J. Bart Miller, and a brother, Matt. Miller has been in the business just five years, and his hair still has a dark sheen compared to the middle-aged gray of many of his clients. But there is no generation gap when it comes to trust.
Can you call your insurance agent at 11:30 p.m.?
Miller’s father, a former executive at Northside Hospital, laid some track for his son in the risk management industry. But Miller’s book of business has swelled in direct proportion to his own diligence. He applies some of the same bromides that offensive staglinemen consider gospel — “nobody is going to outwork me” — and he can back it up.
“You’ve got to be a great sales guy, but you also have to be a great educator,” says Miller. “You have to educate physicians on what they’re buying. They don’t have time to evaluate all this stuff on their own, so you have to educate them to understand where value is. The biggest hurdle I have to overcome is trust. They have to feel I will do anything in my power to help them — that’s at the core.“
Sterling Risk Advisors does the majority of its recruiting from Terry’s highly regarded risk management and insurance program, and Miller serves as a mentor to Terry students. The message he typically delivers in his on-campus speaking appearances echoes the hard work that he displayed in the trenches for the Bulldogs — namely that hard work and perseverance are extremely important in the world of insurance.
Football still has a place in Miller’s life. He is a community coach for the Marist High School football program, teaching offensive line skills to ninth graders. He would like to do more for the program, but he knows there are people who need him more.
“The coolest thing about my job is that I am working with people who are saving lives every single day,” says Miller. “And yet, they don’t have many allies out there. It’s a group of people who appreciate having somebody stand next to them.”