April 22, 2022

Libin cardiologist receives Hal O’Brien Rising Star Award

Dr. Robert Miller recognized for his research into improving the use of nuclear cardiology imaging for diagnosis and risk prediction
Dr. Robert Miller headshot
Photo supplied

Clinician-scientist Dr. Robert JH Miller, MD, is one of three recipients of the 2022 Hal O’Brien Rising Star Award, given to researchers working in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging.

Miller was the sole Canadian chosen, and the only recipient ever to receive nominations from both the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and the SNMMI Councils and Centers of Excellence. The award allowed Miller to attend and present at the prestigious High Country Nuclear Medicine Conference in early March.

He is pleased to have been chosen for the prestigious award. 

“It is an honour for anyone outside of the United States to be selected for this award,” says Miller. “And being chosen by the two society’s simultaneously is validation of all of my recent work in the field.”

Miller, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine, was recognized for his research interests in improving the use of nuclear cardiology in diagnosis and risk prediction, by leveraging advanced quantification techniques as well as machine and deep learning techniques.

Miller specifically presented on recent advances in positron emission tomography (PET) myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI), which shows how well blood flows to the myocardium, or muscle of the heart. He also discussed methods to quantify myocardial blood flow with single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to better predict a patients’ likelihood of experiencing cardiac events. 

Both SPECT and PET are quite common and uses a radioactive tracer to produce images of the heart to determine if a patient has coronary artery disease.

Miller, the medical director of nuclear cardiology and cardiac CT, says about 500,000 scans are performed annually in Canada. He added because the tests are common, it’s critical to maximize their value by leveraging improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can be used to find patterns and subsequently improve diagnostic accuracy and predict risk of heart attacks.

Miller says his work in this area is important, as it allows health care providers to better determine which patients need more aggressive treatments based on their risk and which patients can be re-assured by a low risk of heart attacks.

Miller is involved with other projects, including one using machine learning techniques to identify patients most likely to benefit from revascularization, a procedure that can restore blood flow in blocked arteries or veins. Another project is helping determine which patients can have limited examinations, to reduce radiation exposure and costs.

Dr. Robert Miller is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.