Women Physicians Day is February 3rd, celebrating the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States just 150 years ago. You have joined the ranks of those celebrated on this day due to your determination to make your mark in the treatment of issues of mental health. When you decided to pursue higher education, and eventually a career in psychiatry, were you influenced by any particular female role models?
Dr. Moore: I was mostly influenced by my mother. She was one of the first women in her generation to become highly educated and she felt strongly that all women should be educated so that they could provide for themselves and pursue their own goals. I was one of four girls and had one brother, and she was the driving force behind making all four of her girls independent. Culturally, girls were encouraged to get married and marry well. Becoming a professional was an unfavorable decision.Doing Amongst my siblings, I was the only physician. My other sisters received a Ph.D. in pharmacology, a degree in Library Science, and pursued a career as an attorney. For that generation everything my sisters and I accomplished was impressive.
The world of medicine & psychiatry is classically understood to be a male-dominated industry, with figures as of March 2019 suggesting that men still make up 64% of professionally active physicians. What has been your experience as a woman in this field?
Dr. Moore: When I entered medical school, there were many female doctors, who were professors or assistant professors. These women managed both families and demanding careers simultaneously, showing me that having a family while still pursuing my career goals was attainable. Those heroic women became my role models.
Recent statistics also suggest that physicians between the age of 35-44 are 52% female, as well as 60% of physicians under the age of 35. These trends appear to suggest the resurgence of female physicians.
Dr. Moore: 50% of the candidates who entered medical school with me were women. This is credit to our system of education in Iran at that time. I entered medical school in the 1965 and graduated at the end of 1972. During that time, there was a lot of emphasis on education in Iran, especially education for women. Even though there were very few universities at the time, women were encouraged to study to enter professional fields. More and more women were coming into the helping professions.
You have a very impressive career path, building interest in the field of medicine since your early education in Iran, and continuing your studies in Massachusetts at the Pittsfield General Hospital, and further at the University of Washington Medical Center and finally completing your fellowship at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Was there a single, defining moment that drew you to psychiatry, to the treatment of mental health, or did you always know that you would pursue higher education and a career in health and human services?
Dr. Moore: During my internship at Pittsfield General Hospital, I elected to do a 4-month rotation in psychiatry. This experience is what drew me into a career in psychiatry and psychoanalytic techniques. I was able to observe the transformation of patients to a healthy state in a relatively short period of time, understand more about psycho-dynamics, what it meant to create a relationship with a patient, and learn about how their mind works. Psychiatry was a more intriguing field than just physical medicine.
In addition, was there anything in-particular that led you back to Washington State, or influenced it in your mind as the ideal setting for your practice?
Dr. Moore: In 1973, when I graduated from my internship, many of my peers were interested in two cities: San Francisco and Seattle. Not being from this culture and country, I started researching, and I became intrigued by Seattle. Fortunately, I received acceptance to the University of Washington’s psychiatric residency program! Soon after, I got in my little red VW and drove from Boston, MA to Seattle, WA in 4 days. When I arrived, I thought, this is my home, what a beautiful city!
What originally sparked your interest in the treatment of eating disorders?
Dr. Moore: My training in child psychiatry at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, a pioneer in family therapy, was a pivotal point in my life. That program has since closed, but it allowed me to gain experience in the field of family therapy. When I returned to Seattle, I continued focusing on family therapy as a mode of treatment for eating disorder patients. I became known for treating eating disorders mainly from a family therapy perspective.
I founded The Moore Center in 1991 and it grew from that into a comprehensive treatment facility with multiple providers. We focused on the patient in a holistic way and prioritized having a team that provided different aspects of treatment.
What led you to the decision to retire from The Moore Center and begin THIRA Health?
Dr. Moore: After two and a half decades of full-time commitment to The Moore Center, I was ready for retirement. However, my retirement was short-lived, and this is when THIRA Health came in to play. Since I had worked with eating disorders in the past, I wanted to expand to include other diagnoses in my practice.
You founded The Moore Center in 1991 to provide treatment for Eating Disorders, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, and in more recent years, through founding THIRA health, expanded your services to include treatment for Anxiety and Depression. You have a track record for seeing a need in the community and rising to fill it. Are there any needs in today’s current treatment environment that you are aware of and working to fill?
Dr. Moore: THIRA’s programming tackles a different diagnosis, primarily mood disorders. Our focus has been working with the patients in a holistic way. Rather than addressing just the brain, or just the body, we look to address all dimensions of the person: the context they come from, the family they live in, their place of work, their aspirations, and their spiritual life to promote growth and sustainable recovery.
An additional component of Women Physicians Day is acknowledging the difficulty of the balancing act required by women looking to succeed professionally while also maintaining family responsibilities. How have you been able to navigate this throughout different family life stages?
Dr. Moore: I have a supportive husband, he helped not only with the household duties, but was also intimately involved in building both organizations. Our ability to manage our lives together has been a major factor in being able to find balance. Without a supportive partner, that would make it a lot more difficult.
What advice would you give to young female physicians, or to perhaps a younger version of yourself?
Dr. Moore: You really need to be clear about what your goal is for your career and try to establish your goal by your mid-thirties. If your primary goal is to have a career and a family as well, it is important to have balance.
What do you wish was public knowledge, or more people were aware of regarding the work that you do?
Dr. Moore: The stigma of mental health is something that is gradually going away, but the public still needs to know that mental health is similar to medical health and that they are equally important. Perhaps mental health is even more important because so many of the medical problems are consequences of poor mental health. We truly need to have good preventive mental health care similar to other preventative care such as cardiovascular care and breast care.
What other challenges have you faced along the way that stand out when you think back on your life and career?
Dr. Moore: The fact that I come from a different culture, having to make that transition at times has been challenging. Sometimes it can also be a positive, I am able to look at things from an objective perspective. I don’t experience all the innate assumptions that go on when you are embedded in a culture, I have a wider perspective.
You are a notable figure for your many contributions to the field and your community, by establishing first The Moore Center, now officially ERC- WA, along with your current project, THIRA Health. However, what part of your career are you especially proud of, that brings you the most joy when you look back at it?
Dr. Moore: I think that the creation of The Moore Center and THIRA Health have been the highlights of my career. It took two decades to convince insurance companies that this population needed their attention and deserved coverage. I am very proud of our advocacy for the Eating Disorder population and our part in making this a reality.
Dr. Moore truly does offer a unique perspective which no doubt has contributed to the current success of THIRA Health. If you want to learn more about our team, and the programs we offer under Dr. Moore’s leadership, spend some time on our website or blog to see what we’ve posted!