Women in Medicine -- Tenacity's Reward
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.
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
"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
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."