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Hope Award

Dr. Donnica is featured on the cover of the Oct. 2000 Women in Medicine Magazine. In the cover story, "Top Docs: Three Women Show Us How It's Done", Dr. Donnica talks about the importance of sticking to your goals and the struggles she faced as a woman in medicine.

Women in Medicine -- Tenacity's Reward
by Debra Wood

Less than satisfactory trips to the doctor to treat her scoliosis convinced Moore to become a doctor who would do things differently, and she has. Her initial interest in orthopedics gave way to gynecology. But she never lost her fervor for putting the patient first, a perspective she gained while on the receiving end of health care. During her residency at Temple University, Moore underwent major surgery to relieve spinal cord compressions and had to learn how to walk again.

"My career has been shaped by serendipity," she says. "Every major career change, I made primarily because of health and my physical situation."

After heeding her surgeon's warning about resuming a physically intense practice, Moore signed on for a research position with Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corp. in her area of interest, endocrinology, specifically female hormones. While there, Moore recognized the media's power and that she could create more impact on the field of medicine through television than she could by seeing 100 patients per day.

"I was very fortunate to have a wonderful career there," Moore recalls. "I was able to start Sandoz on a path toward supporting women's health research, a movement that began in 1989 to 1990."

Moore played an active role in the grassroots endeavor thanks to a chance encounter, during an American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) meeting, with members also involved in the Society for Women's Health Research. Bernadine Healy, M.D. served as the first editor of the Journal of Women's Health, the society's official peer-reviewed journal, and encouraged Moore to write papers and serve on the review board, which she did.

Moore drew on her corporate experience to help the group focus and set specific short- and long-term goals that would address three key concerns; heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

"The group really made miracles happen," Moore says. "Short term, we championed creation of an office of research for women's health at National Institutes of Health (NIH), and six months later the office was formed."

Healy established the NIH's Women's Health Initiative, Moore was in the audience at the announcement and accepted Healy's suggestion that she help organize a collaborative industry, government and academic effort.

After leaving Sandoz while recuperating from Lyme Disease, Moore started her own consulting business, the Sapphire Women's Health Group in Neshanic Station, N.J. The company works with corporate clients that have an interest in women's health. She also oversaw development of the web site www.menopause-health.com.

Soon another episode of being in the right place at the right time presented itself. When NBC's Weekend Today show asked for someone from AMWA to appear and discuss silicone breast implants, Moore accepted.

"The interview went well, and a few weeks later the producer asked me to come back," Moore says. "Every few weeks I'd go on Weekend Today and talk about another issue. It developed into a nice relationship."

When NBC created Later Today, the producer asked Moore to become a regular medical contributor, developing a style she refers to as "medicine lite," which puts a positive spin on women's health issues.

"We use humor as a spoonful of sugar the helps the medicine go down," Moore says. "Most medical reports on television use fear as a motivator. We talk about the good news."

Sports gave Moore an escape from the rough Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up. She swam and played tennis on the New York City Public Tennis League. Moore traveled to the nation's capitol and met with members of Congress as part of the Model Congress program. Brooklyn Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm and Elizabeth Holzman became role models.

"I'm testimony that these inner-city programs work," she says. "I had opportunities, because I was under-privileged, that most wealthy kids will never have."

Programs and people made a difference. Her mother, a high school teacher, and her mostly unemployed actor father stressed the importance of education. A sixth-grade teacher encouraged Moore to read.

Scholarships and three jobs paid for an undergraduate degree from Princeton University. She graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine.

Moore and her husband have two children. She enjoys reading, photography and creating scrapbooks. Moore spends her spare moments as a soccer mom, carpooling the youngsters to gymnastics and doing other parental activities. "I try to make the most of every minute with my kids," she says. "The No. 1 thing I want to be is a mother now, a grandmother later."

Since the children are still in elementary school, Moore will have to wait a few years to become a grandmother. She plans to spend the time expanding her media role and disseminating reliable health information over the Internet.

"The days of having one job and one career role for most Americans is over," Moore concludes. "I'd encourage women physicians to figure out what they want personally and professionally and make it happen. It works. I don't see negative circumstances as obstacles. I see them as hurdles. Hurdles are there to be jumped over, and if they can't be jumped, you knock them down and run right through."

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