Special treatment: Caring for ill children is a lifelong pursuit for Dr. Sheila Moore

Dr. Sheila Moore has cared for Baton Rouge patients for 50 years. She established the St. Jude Baton Rouge Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health two decades ago. Photos by Collin Richie.

Dr. Sheila Moore’s call to the medical profession came at an early age. “I wanted to be a doctor from about the 6th grade,” says Moore, now 81 years old. “I just knew that I wanted to help people. From the very beginning when I realized that grownups got up and went to work every day, I wanted to be a doctor. I have never been sure why. There are no doctors in the family. But I think God put it in my head.”

Moore, who has practiced medicine in Baton Rouge for half a century, says she built on her early passion by reading “all the books in the Clinton library,” encouraged by parents who instilled in her a love of learning. “They taught me that high school was not the end of learning—just the beginning,” she recalls. “‘You can get a high school ring, but it better not be the last school ring you ever get,’ they said. Daddy worked at LSU, so it was not hard to go there. I stayed in the dorms. Lots of freshman were playing cards but I stayed away from them.”

But Moore played her own cards right, and it turned out to be a winning hand. She became a sub-specialist in pediatric hematology/oncology during a time when there were far fewer women in the field. “I had an interview with an admissions officer at LSU Medical School in New Orleans, and he asked me if I realized I was taking the place of a man,” she says. “He told me I would not practice and that I was depriving a man who would be much more likely to serve as a doctor. I wish he could see me now.”

Moore, shown here with pediatric nurse practitioner Katie Helo, looks forward to the St. Jude Baton Rouge Affiliate Clinic moving into the new freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital when it opens in 2019. There, all inpatient and outpatient hematology and oncology clinics will be housed on the same floor.

Caring for children with cancer and blood diseases became the focus of Moore’s career. “For about 25 years, I was always on call,” she says. “When it was time to go home from Earl K. Long Hospital in north Baton Rouge, I was traveling south to Our Lady of the Lake to make rounds and do consults there. Then home to Zachary, where I live. Then repeat! But I was young and able. I have never stopped loving the challenge of making a diagnosis and helping manage a child’s disease.”

That dedication and energy helped Moore establish the St. Jude Baton Rouge Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health 20 years ago. The clinic, which is one of only eight of its kind in the country, allows local patients to get care under protocols created by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital without having to travel to Memphis.

“This job has been a calling,” Moore says. “I have never been disappointed. I have always loved what I do. I do take problems home at night. How can you not? I say a lot of prayers. I ask God to help me with the clinic.”

As the Christmas season nears, Moore is looking forward to gathering with her large family, which includes seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “Usually we try to go to Christmas Eve mass in our little St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Zachary,” she says. “One of the grandchildren has a birthday on December 24, and a great-grandson has a birthday on December 26, when he will be four. Most of us will be together, if God is willing, for a Christmas dinner. I usually make the dressing, now with lots of help from my daughter-in-law. It is different now from the days I used to put the turkey in the oven, cover with bacon and cheesecloth soaked in olive oil, then go to Earl K. Long or Our Lady of the Lake to make rounds, and ask God to baste the turkey.”

Moore says she’s not quite ready to retire just yet. But when the time comes, she says, ”The St. Jude affiliation will be my legacy.”

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