Donnica Moore to be featured on E! special
By: AVA GACSER
(Far Hills NJ, 8/10/08): When E! Entertainment Television was looking for a doctor to share their opinions on the "10 Most Compelling Mama Dramas" earlier this year, it called Donnica Moore.
"(The show) was about all kinds of celebrities who had various medical problems either related to pregnancy or the post-partum period," explains Moore. On the program, the Far Hills resident spoke about Britney Spears' assorted issues and the accidental heparin overdose of Dennis Quaid's newborn twins.
So when the network was looking to do another special, this time on the "10 Most Shocking Mental Disorders" (which airs at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15), Moore was at the top of their list. And after speaking to her for just a few moments, it's not hard to see why.
"If you're someone who's living under the microscope of the media spotlight, how do you get treatment for mental illness?" she asks. "Look at Heather Locklear. She finally checked herself into some place to get treatment for her depression. She can't even secretly do that."
But Locklear isn't exactly Joe Schmo. We're already well-aware of Locklear as an actress with several hit TV shows under her belt. We know she has a soft spot for rock 'n' rollers (her ex-husbands include Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora). She has a beautiful daughter and a new boyfriend (Jack Wagner). So what's she got to be depressed about?
"She has "everything,' " Moore says. "That represents the core misunderstanding of depression. It's not a lifestyle choice. It's not that she's being weak or being a baby or saying, "Oh, I'm so unhappy even though I have everything.' It's a biologic problem, just like if she developed breast cancer."
Locklear is just one of the celebrities Moore discusses in the special, which focuses on a variety of mental-health illnesses. Other cases include Kim Basinger's struggle with agoraphobia, a fear of public places that affects over 3 million Americans, and "Deal or No Deal" host Howie Mandel's battle against germaphobia.
"Howie Mandel has said he can't use a public toilet," she says. "How do you travel if you can't use a public restroom?"
Moore believes that although the goal of the E! special is to entertain, its usage of celebrity stories helps educate the public about all kinds of mental-health issues. The program's objective, she says, is also to help "diminish the stigma by saying you're not alone and most of these things can be treated. That's what is so sad about this issue. Most people suffer in silence for years."
Yet there are also those celebrities — the "girls gone wild" types, Moore calls them — that "seem to go out of their way to generate drama." Those young women — including Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie — seem to need some sort of adult supervision.
"A lot of them need a mother figure to say, "Look, if you're going to go out to bars and drink, at least have a driver,' " the mother of two says. "Certainly if my daughter were going to a party late at night in New York I would hire a limo driver to pick her up. And I'm not a bazillionaire."
And while it's true that many celebrities are often exposed to alcohol and drugs, Moore says it's probably not that much more than regular teenagers.
"Do kids in suburban New Jersey have some of this same access?" she asks. "Yes. (But) drugs and alcohol are also literally gasoline on the fire of mental illness. Not all of these celebrities have mental illnesses by any means. But I do think many of them have mental illnesses that are uncovered or exacerbated by the drugs and alcohol. And many of them turn to those things because they're in a party setting."
Other factors, such as a poor diet, smoking and little sleep — combined with drugs or alcohol — also may contribute to mental illness.
"A Lindsay Lohan, who is teeny tiny, is going to be far more affected by one alcoholic beverage than somebody my size would be," Moore points out.
A knack for the spotlight
Moore's TV exposure isn't something new. The 47-year-old's longtime association with the medium first began when pre-Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly interviewed her and her five younger siblings for a TV news segment in New York City. She was 12.
"They did a special on gifted children and so they came to our house and interviewed us," she recalls.
Her next TV appearance didn't come until she was an expert being interviewed about osteoporosis by Frank Field on a New York City station in 1990.
"Thank goodness we did a pre-interview," she recalls with a laugh. "He mispronounced (osteoporosis) and he really didn't know what it was. And I said, "With all due respect, what kind of doctor are you?' And he said, "Oh, I'm a meteorologist.' So I said, "Why don't you just ask me, "Dr. Moore, what is osteoporosis?" and I'll just talk for three minutes.' "
Immediately after being elected president of the American Medical Women's Association in the early 1990s, Moore was again launched into the TV spotlight. This time it was for a women's health-issue segment on NBC's "Weekend Today" show. Things quickly mushroomed from there.
After that, "every couple weeks they would call me back to do the "Weekend Today' show on a different topic," says Moore. "So I did that for a couple years."
Around the same time, she started up Sapphire Women's Health Group, which addresses women's health education, communications and consulting. And in 1999, along came the "Later Today" show and with it an offer to become a regular women's health contributor.
"I did a different women's health topic every week for the full run of that show," which lasted one year, she says. To avoid conflicts of interest, Moore resigned from her posts as president of the American Medical Women's Association and medical director of the pharmaceutical company Sandoz, now known as Novartis.
In 2000, when "Later Today" was canceled and she was freed from her NBC contract, Moore found that she wanted to continue speaking about medical issues on TV programs.
"I saw a great need for a woman physician to be able to translate medical information to language that patients would understand and would listen to," she explains. "I developed a style that was engaging and entertaining as well as educational.
"Sometimes the way we present medical information to consumers makes them tune out. Women are definitely tired of hearing "One in eight women in this room will get breast cancer'. . . You want to hear the information in a positive way."
Moore decided to try a different tack: "I talk about (how) 95 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will be effectively cured. Now you've got my attention."
While still at Sandoz, Moore began developing partnerships with celebrities. She worked with soap opera actress Linda Dano on a campaign for the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Later on, she worked with model/actress Lauren Hutton and singer Patti LaBelle on separate menopause education campaigns. She has also collaborated with models Rachel Hunter, Christy Turlington and Cheryl Ladd.
"I think celebrities felt comfortable with me because I treat them like everyday ordinary people," says Moore.
She has since parlayed her working relationships with celebrities into a feature called Celebrity Speak Out on her Web site, www.drdonnica.com.
"Each week we feature a different celebrity talking about whatever their health issue du jour is," Moore says.
And Moore's brush with Hollywood doesn't end there. An experience she had as a resident in Philadelphia was adapted for one of TV's most popular medical drama shows, "Grey's Anatomy."
"(They) asked, "Just out of curiosity, do you have any good storylines for "Grey's Anatomy' on women with AIDS?" she recalls. "And I said, "Here's a good story.' "
That story involved an HIV-positive woman pregnant with twins. After delivering the first baby vaginally, Moore says the second baby went breech. She then had to perform an emergency cesarean section with the least amount of assistance because of the risk involved.
"This was in the days when we weren't even allowed to test anyone for HIV unless they gave us written permission," she remembers.
Looking back, Moore describes her assorted forays into TV as "serendipitous."
"I feel like my role has been to use my six minutes on television to facilitate the doctor-patient relationship," she says. "I feel like if I do one show like this (on E!) then I've reached millions of people.
"That's very empowering, and it took two hours of my time."
More information about Donnica Moore and women's health issues is available by visiting www.drdonnica.com.