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Medical Center chief has endured much adversity

July 22, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - With his education and experience in health-care administration, George M. Moore Jr. knows he could make a lot more money in the private sector.

But it's not the money that drives him, said Moore, 54, who will take over the helm of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center east of Martinsburg on Aug. 3.

"I enjoy working for veterans because I am a veteran," said the former Air Force fighter pilot, who is still a licensed pilot. "I like the mission of the VA better. I have a real strong feeling we need to take care of our vets."

"I lost a whole way of life," said Moore, a triple amputee. "There's a whole lot of people out there like me."

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Moore had 49 surgeries and spent 43 months in the hospital in San Antonio following an accident during his second tour of duty in Vietnam.

Coming in for a landing after a night mission, Moore was wrongly instructed to land his F-100 Supersabre on a runway under construction.

In the darkness, he couldn't see the ditch running across it, he said. He hit it at about 168 mph, ripping the gear off the plane, which cartwheeled 13 times.

Badly burned, Moore had to be cut out of the wreckage.

Following his recovery, Moore said he took advantage of veterans' benefits to go back to college and to pursue a second career.

He earned a second bachelor's degree at Arizona State University and a master's degree in health-care administration from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

He went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a trainee in Memphis, Tenn., in 1980, and over the years worked his way up the ranks to his current post as director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bonham, Texas.

Martinsburg is a two-step move up, said Moore, who said he was pleasantly surprised to land the assignment.

Bonham is a level 4 facility, the least complex in the Veterans Affairs system, he said.

Martinsburg is a level 2, next to the highest, with more patients than Bonham has, Moore said.

He said he doesn't aspire to a level 1 facility because most are in inner cities.

"I want to stay the rest of my career unless they run me off," he said of the center in Martinsburg.

In addition to the professional boost, Moore said he's delighted to be moving to the Eastern Panhandle for the climate, recreational opportunities, closer proximity to his son and historical sites and the comfortable distance from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

"An hour or so away from the big city is a good place to be," he said.

Although he's a Mississippi native, Moore said Texas is too hot for him as he lacks the ability to perspire from the roughly 70 percent of his body that was burned in the accident. Based on assignments in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, he said he thinks Martinsburg's climate will suit him better.

The move will bring him and wife, LuAnn Moore, closer to their only son, who has been attending Manhattanville College in New York State and is spending the summer as a white-water rafting guide.

Interested in the Civil War, Moore said he likes all the history in the area and the fact there're a lot of battlefields close by.

It's also a good area for his hobbies, he said.

Using a six-wheeler to get around, Moore said he's an avid hunter and fisherman and a member of a sportsmen's club in Warren, Pa.

The area also has ample opportunities for show dog competition, a hobby he and his wife share.

He shows champion Welsh terriers. She shows champion Brussels griffons.

Moore replaces former director Richard Pell, who left April 10 for an administrative position with a private health-care company near Philadelphia, according to VA spokeswoman Doris Griffin.

The medical center's chief of staff, Dr. Francis Citro, will serve as acting director until Moore takes over, Griffin said.

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