JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 15, 2015) — A retired major general has high praise for the health care provider he oversaw more than two decades ago.
“The care has been truly phenomenal,” said Maj. Gen. William L. Moore Jr., who served as Brooke Army Medical Center’s, or BAMC’s, commander from 1988-1991. “But this doesn’t surprise me; the quality of medical practice here has always been excellent.”
Moore has been undergoing rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, or CFI, BAMC’s outpatient rehabilitation facility, since June 2014 when a fall at home resulted in an above-the-knee amputation of his left leg. Doctors told him he’d never walk again, but he’s not only walking now, he’s navigating stairs with the help of a prosthesis.
His wife, Sissy, stood by nervously as he descended the stairs at the CFI, gripping his crutches tightly in one hand, shadowed closely by his physical therapist technician. “My husband is an overachiever,” she said fondly. “He’s 81 years old and still works out six times a week, then comes here for rehab. His therapists were amazed at his initial progress.”
Moore’s penchant for achievement was passed down from his father, he said. The son of a World War II first sergeant, Moore recalls his dad waking him each morning with a loud “off and on!”
From an early age, he aspired to be a service member like his father, but placed those plans on hold to pursue his medical degree. He became a general medicine doctor, got married and started a civilian practice in Rome, Georgia. He didn’t shift gears until 1961, when he heard John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
“I walked in the kitchen the next day and told my wife, ‘I’m joining the Army,'” Moore recalled. He was commissioned Jan. 4, 1962.
The military took him around the world, but he always ended back on Fort Sam Houston, spending nearly half of his 33-year career in Texas. His BAMC time dates back to 1965 when he was an internal medicine resident, followed by an Army-sponsored fellowship in infectious disease at Southwestern Medical School’s Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Returning from Dallas in the early 70s, he started the infectious disease subspecialty program while serving as BAMC’s assistant chief of medicine. After a short break in service, Moore reported to duty at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center on Fort Gordon, Georgia, and from there moved to Germany to command Frankfurt Army Regional Medical Center.
In 1986, Lt. Gen. Quinn Becker, former Army surgeon general, asked Moore to head up the Army HIV/AIDS program in the surgeon general’s office in Washington, D.C. Two years later, in November 1988, now Brig. Gen. Moore took command of BAMC, which was headquartered on the main post at that time.
His former secretary, Carolyn Putnam, recalls Moore’s innate drive clearly. “He wanted to improve his musical skills, so he decided to take piano lessons,” recalled Putnam, who is still serving as BAMC’s commander’s secretary. “His schedule was so busy he ended up taking lessons at 5:30 a.m. and still managed to arrive on time for morning report. His persistence paid off and he plays beautifully.”
While he loves music, his primary passion is teaching medicine, said Moore, who also served as commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department and School, or AMEDDC&S, from 1991-1994.
“I always taught the importance of personal responsibility, to care what’s happening with patients and to remain interested in the patient as a human being, not a disease,” he said. “We should approach patients with a genuine sense of concern for the holistic environment of the patient and his family, always taking into account how the illness might have an impact on their lives.”
Moore worked to incorporate those same principles at BAMC, contributing to its longstanding reputation for quality care.
Moore retired in 1994 and has since seen BAMC evolve and adopt new technology over the years but “the changes have been in bricks and mortar, not in the people,” he said. “There’s still ample caring, compassion, concern, and outstanding professional knowledge of the medicine that’s practiced here.”
His time at BAMC remains a bright spot in his career, he said. “I had so much fun working here sometimes I wonder why I got paid for it.”
From their first meeting, BAMC Command Sgt. Maj. Tabitha Gavia was impressed at his devotion to health and fitness. “He’s a living, breathing example of the Performance Triad,” she said, referring to the Army surgeon general’s initiative for activity, nutrition and sleep. “When I’m his age, I want to be just as devoted to wellness as Gen. Moore.”
Now back at BAMC as a patient, Moore said he hopes to inspire the service members, some bilateral or triple amputees, recovering at the CFI alongside him. “I hope they look at me and think, ‘If this old geezer can do it, I can too,'” he said with a laugh. “The reality is, however much I inspire them, they inspire me more.”