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Profile in Compassion: Missionary Work in your Own Backyard

Andrew Moore has practiced plastic surgery in Lexington for 30 years. His initial motivation to become a physician was seeing how much his father, Lexington’s first plastic surgeon, enjoyed the practice of medicine. He remembers seeing patients approach his father in public to express their gratitude. He recalls overhearing phone conversations in which his father told patients not to worry about paying him just be sure to pay the hospital first and pay him as they were able. His father also accepted bartering arrangements in which he received furniture, chickens, bushels of apples and other items in exchange for medical services.

Andrew_MooreThough initially planning to be a general surgeon, Andrew decided he could affect patients’ quality of life more as a plastic surgeon, especially with the new techniques that were emerging at that time. After joining his father in practice in the 1980s, they sometimes lobbied the hospitals on behalf of indigent patients, often getting agreements to join the physicians in providing free surgical care to patients in need.

As a member of St Joseph Hospital’s indigent medicine board in the 1990s, he studied various options for providing free services to those unable to afford much-needed surgical care. They had a huge backlog of elective gallbladder surgeries that created the final impetus for Andrew to create a separate entity to address this need. He created Surgery on Sunday as a non-profit in 2005 and received a grant from Catholic Health Initiatives that sustained operations for the first 2-3 years.

He knew that qualified personnel are the greatest cost of delivering surgical services. He also knew many physicians and nurses paid their own way and used precious vacation time for medical missions around the world. He thought he could attract compassionate professionals who “have this yearning in their heart to help people without necessarily getting anything in return, except maybe a hand shake or a hug.” He thought he could appeal to mission-driven doctors and nurses who were frustrated with the economics and bureaucracy of healthcare and connect them with needy Kentucky patients, some of whom were their own neighbors.

Rice Leach, Lexington-Fayette County health commissioner, is on the Surgery on Sunday board and says, “Andy Moore combines compassion and curing as he cares for people who would have to do without if he was not there.” Michael Moore is Andrew’s plastic surgery partner and says, “My brother represents our father’s philosophy of medicine. It’s about the patients.”

Andrew says, “When you know how you have influenced a child’s life from a cleft lip and palate repair and you see the joy in their eyes, you are energized beyond belief. Surgery on Sunday patients know you are working for free and they are so appreciative.”

He is personally sustained by his family, including three children and five grandchildren, and his love of the outdoors. After our interview, he was heading to his farm in Madison County, where he likes to “sit on the porch, look at the sky, do nothing, reflect on life and feel a sense of peace.”

About the Author:
Dr Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, specializing in stress-related chronic disease and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at www.mindbodystudio.org

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