We started our story of Justin Moore, MD, with his journey to the ICU. If you’re a patient or the family of a patient, though, says Dr. Moore, “Don’t call me Dr. Moore. I’m your friend. We become friends.” It’s what he values most: “The connection with people helps me overcome every long, long day.”Dr. Moore tells me a story about a man named Rudy and I’m not sure (at first) if Rudy is a friend or a patient. It turns out they became friends while Dr. Moore was treating Rudy’s terminally ill wife. They’re seemingly odd bedfellows, but it becomes clear that patients and friends are one and the same for Dr. Moore.
He describes Rudy as, "A 5’2” Polish friend who weighs (maybe) 100 pounds when he’s wet." Rudy has a dog named Lucy who ONLY likes Rudy, and Rudy ONLY likes warm beer – which is why Dr. Moore once put a beer in the microwave for him. “Rudy complained that it was too hot!” says Dr. Moore. He tells me how the duo once built a fire pit together (pictured below); and that he once found Rudy at his home sitting in his recliner. It’s a delightful story, but then there’s a long quiet pause until Dr. Moore reveals that Rudy is in the hospital, and his family – “now my family,” as he puts it – has been calling about a plan for Rudy’s care. There’s another long, quiet pause and I think our audio has cut out, but Dr. Moore has paused to regain his composure, something that’s now clear in his not-so-clear voice. “He has Septic Emboli in his brain and many of his organs have already failed. It’s not good." Shortly after our interview, Rudy passed away. Our condolences to Dr. Moore and Rudy’s family and friends.
The adventures with Dr. Moore continue, though. He once treated a soldier who served in Patton’s army; he put a chest tube in a former Tuskegee Airman; and he even arranged and paid for a wedding for a terminally ill cancer patient who wanted to marry the (longtime) love of his life before he passed away. One thing that really bugs Dr. Moore? There’s no room for preferential treatment or ego anywhere in the ICU. It may seem like every patient in Dr. Moore's ICU is a VIP, but he treats one and all with equal care.
“Critical care is life, or trying to save a life, but it’s not just about the patient. One family member or friend doesn’t always have the same idea of who their loved one is or what he or she wants. How you talk about death and dignity is everything,” says Dr. Moore. “I treat them like family because the most challenging thing in all of this is making sure their loved ones wants and needs are met. ”
Dr. Moore is clear about one thing though: “I absolutely never make a decision for a patient or family, I simply support and facilitate." Being there for the family and helping them during the most difficult time anyone can go through is what Dr. Moore loves most about being a doctor. “Some people don’t want to be let go. Others don’t want to suffer. Some want just one more day. You have to think about Plan B and even Plan C every single day,” says Dr. Moore. Teamwork is vital in the ICU, too. We take pride in what we accomplish together. Once you get past the ego, the ‘I’m the almighty doc’ and we work as a team, everything runs a lot smoother.”
Being regimented is critical, too. “I get asked if I was a military man because I’m structured and want things a certain way, so I often ask: if it was your mom or dad in there wouldn’t you want me to be that way?” Dr. Moore says. “If we miss something, there’s nothing else after us. We’re it…we’re the ICU.”
The Moore family has moved several times, but their most recent move put them in Las Vegas (we can’t tell you why, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). Dr. Moore has been working locum tenens assignments for Interim Physicians because of their moves and he says it’s really matured him. "I’ve learned to take and give direction, and I’ve really learned leadership. It doesn’t matter if you know your medical team or not, you’re a team because you each have an important role. I rely on the dietician, the respiratory therapist, you name it. These are life and death decisions I’m making.”
If you missed Part 1 of this series you can read it here: From Podiatry to Critical Care: The Long Strange Trip of Justin Moore, MD. If you're interested in working as a locum tenens physician, click the green button to learn more:
Saralynn White has been writing about doctors – and marketing physician recruiting and locum tenens staffing – since the mid 2000's. She loves working with physicians and enjoys the personal connections she makes as Interim's Director of Marketing.