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Striving for patients' quality of life
July 9, 2010 @ 9:56am | Rodika Tollefson
When Dr. Donna Moore opened her private practice in Bremerton, her specialty — physical medicine and rehabilitation, or physiatry — was so new to the Kitsap area, her first challenge was to educate fellow physicians about what she did and why they should refer patients to her. More than 12 years later, Moore’s practice is thriving, and she has helped numerous patients of all ages to regain their quality of life after being injured or struck by a chronic disease.
As a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, Moore is part of the patient’s team that also includes the family doctor, physical therapist and other specialists. Part of her job is to test patients’ nerves (through tests such as EMG, electromyography) to see if they will physically recover or remain weak, then try to figure out how to help them recover.
Moore was attracted to the specialty while doing a medical school rotation at the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago, where she “got to help patients recover quality in their lives.”
“I enjoyed seeing people be resilient and move along. It’s taught me in my life that you don’t have to be perfect to be good,” she said. “You can have a good quality of life even if you have (a limitation).”
Dr. Moore got to put that belief to the test several years ago, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She continued to work through her treatments, partly because she wanted to make sure her staff had work hours as well as medical insurance, partly so she could have health insurance herself. She couldn’t even wear a wig, so making her struggle public helped her evaluate the idea of whether people around her understood they could continue to live full lives despite physical challenges.
The experience of being on the other side of the health-care delivery also compelled her to change her own approach a little, addressing any fears patients may have regarding their tests.
“It’s very humbling. You understand the frustrations of being a patient and the lack of control,” she said. “I learned more about the medical system from a patient’s perspective.”
Moore knew as a young person she would either become a veterinarian or a physician. She has enjoyed her highly specialized field, especially being part of a team approach. “It’s a fabulous specialty and a privilege,” she said.
One of her goals is to teach people about their roles in their own recovery, and she also likes to help them network with each other so patients can share their experiences.
“In medicine today, we miss an opportunity to educate patients on what they can do to help themselves. I like to empower them to be part of their health-care team,” Moore said.
Educating patients can also be a challenging part of the job, because “it’s hard to make a living” while taking the time needed to educate people. Since she frequently has to prescribe equipment, she spends hours just doing the paperwork. For a wheelchair, for example, she has to dictate a letter, get a physical therapist involved, then have a back-and-forth dialogue with the insurer that can sometimes go on for months. “It’s getting worse and worse. The future will be that you can’t survive in private practice and need to be part of a bigger group,” she said.
Moore has previously served as the rehabilitation medical director for Harrison Medical Center, Martha & Mary Nursing Home and Port Orchard Care Center, and continues to be the rehabilitation medical director at Northwdoods Lodge. Recently, she has shifted her focus to be more of a consultant to other physicians.
A mother to children, ages 11 and 14, Moore tries to stay balanced by staying physically active (she rides a bicycles, sprints and does triathlons) as well as volunteering for various organizations, including as a speaker for cancer-related events. Recently, Kitsap County recognized her, Dr. George Berni and Dr. Heidi Hutchinson as being “fitness warriors,” and they received plaques during a fun run for their part in promoting their communities and their own health.
She says she loves the area, and this is where some day she and her husband plan to retire.
“We are lucky in Kitsap County to have such an amazing collection of doctors,” Moore said. “We have most specialties represented. The doctors are hard-working, intelligent and compassionate. I feel incredibly lucky to work in this community.”
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