by Alix Roy ’07
Of all the public health directors across the country, Dora Anne Mills ’82 is perhaps the only one who can greet you in English or Russian, whichever you prefer. In fact, during her first year at Bowdoin, Dora concentrated almost entirely on Russian studies and had no plans for a medical career. It wasn’t until her sophomore year, when then Biology Professor Jim Moulton suggested that she consider medical school, that Dora decided to complete the pre-med requirements and add biology to her degree. It was Moulton’s guidance that allowed Dora to pursue a field that “felt perfect for me but for which I lacked the confidence.” After graduation she attended medical school at the University of Vermont.
Prior to taking over as Maine’s public health director, Dora traveled to Nepal and India. She met Mother Theresa, and joined a medical trip with Crossroads Africa to the Ivory Coast, where she lived in a small village studying local health issues and remedies used by African doctors. Her experiences abroad had a profound influence on her and she was able to incorporate much of her newfound knowledge into her practice in the U.S. “Traveling is such a great teacher,” she says, adding that upon leaving Calcutta she “felt a bit guilty to be leaving an area of such great need…but felt called to return to my home state of Maine.”
As Director she has done her best over the past decade to address key health issues faced by the state, such as teenage smoking. She worked with Governor Angus King H’07, the Legislature, and many stakeholders to raise the tobacco tax, make all indoor public places in Maine smoke-free, and obtain the first state funding for tobacco prevention and treatment.
Since then, Maine has seen one of the steepest declines in youth smoking ever.
Dora was recently recognized for her outstanding work by the American Medical Association, which presented her with the President’s Award in 2006 and the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service earlier this year.
As for the future, Dora hopes to share her love of travel with her husband, Michael Fiori ’74, and two children, but also feels a strong connection to Maine and her home, just a mile from the Bowdoin campus.The challenge of overseeing a $100 million budget and 420 employees is significant, but the demanding nature of her job is what forces Dora to immerse herself in it and feel good about the results. “I am truly blessed—I feel very passionate about my work, and in turn my work feeds that passion.”
Posted February 01, 2007