Feature: Moore ’11 Displays a Heart for Medicine and People

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Famous Greek physician and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, once said, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”

Even if Hippocrates had not referred to medicine as art, it is irrelevant to Kansas Wesleyan University alumna Meriah (Forbes) Moore. She possesses an undeniable passion for both. 

A 2011 KWU graduate majoring in biomedical chemistry, Moore embodied the school’s mantra, “The Power of And.” She enjoyed painting – and she was a resident assistant, a member of the student government, served in Campus Crusade, played the French horn, and performed in theater shows. Throughout her three-year balancing act at KWU, Moore never complained. 

“Maybe I heard she was tired once,” Moore’s studio art professor Lori Wright recalled with a chuckle. “She was always very dedicated.”

Even with her numerous interests, there is no debating what initially brought Moore to KWU – its debate team. 

“That’s how I got introduced to the college,” Moore recalled. “I [debated] all three years I was there. That was a big part of my experience at KWU.”

Moore is not one to boast about her accomplishments. As a member of the debate team, she became the program’s first-ever All-American. Although she originally held aspirations of becoming an English teacher, a fascination with the art of medicine began to take over during her first year at KWU.

“The fact that you have all of these tiny chemical processes happening in your body all of the time without you having any thought or control over it was just incredible to me,” she stated. 

After receiving her bachelor’s degree at KWU, Moore enrolled in medical school at The University of Kansas School of Medicine−Wichita in 2012, earning Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism honors for academic performance and service.

During her final year of medical school, Moore journeyed to Zambia, Africa, where she cared for patients at Zimba Mission Hospital. The experience broadened Moore’s perspective, strengthening the notion that the art of medicine was about more than resources and technology.

“The doctors I got to work with in that hospital are probably some of the best doctors I’ve ever worked with,” she noted. “They don’t have the technology we have in the U.S., but what they do have is their experience, physical exam, and compassion for people.”

Compassion for people. While this quality stood out to Moore in Zambia, she possessed it herself long before her trip to Africa.

“She kind of impressed me as a person who was interested in going into medicine because she was really wanting to serve,” Moore’s chemistry professor Dr. Dorothy Hanna, stated. “She really cared about people. It wasn’t about the prestige or the money.”

After finishing medical school, Moore completed a three-year internal medicine residency at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Now a physician herself, she is currently in her second year of a medical fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Moore is concluding her training as a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in treating immune system disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and vasculitis. In this particular branch of medicine, she encounters conditions and cases not commonly found in medical literature. More importantly, rheumatology gives the KWU alumna an opportunity to provide care to patients for a lifetime. 

“Once a person has a condition like lupus, they usually have it their whole life,” Moore said. “They are always going to need a rheumatologist to help if a new symptom represents lupus or something else.”

She added, “These people can often be very sick. To be able to have any kind of impact for them is a big blessing to me and a big reason why I am doing what I’m doing.”

With more than a year under her belt, Moore is enjoying her time at the University of Michigan. Of course, she is there during the current global pandemic caused by the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). With COVID-19 having a significant impact on the immune system, Moore is on the frontlines, helping patients cope with this mysterious disease. 

When treating COVID-19 patients, Moore finds herself in a place of vulnerability and uncertainty. Often times, she is forced to utter the words, “I don’t know,” when asked questions pertaining to long-term health concerns. Humbled by the experience, Moore sees the silver lining.

“What I’ve learned is that it takes a community to be able to respond to something like this,” she said. “I have just been amazed how everybody is bought into protecting their neighbor and willing to adopt different practices. It gives me hope that as a community, we are resilient and we will get through it together.”

Now heavily immersed in the medical field, Moore still utilizes the skills she honed at KWU. Painting is a welcomed release for her after an overwhelming day. The lessons learned from debating also resurface when interacting with patients.  

“If I don’t try to understand their perception of the issue and their perspective, then no way am I going to be able to be successful at trying to improve their disease,” Moore noted. “Debate is all about that – trying to figure out the most effective way to communicate with people.”

Moore’s former debate coach Gary Harmon is not surprised to hear she still incorporates the skills she honed at KWU into her day-to-day life. Having witnessed her become an All-American, he is acutely aware of her abilities, but points to something greater than individual giftings. 

“Meriah is a very brilliant young lady,” he stated. “She can adapt to almost anything. But what really makes Meriah good is her heart.” 

While Moore encourages students to immerse themselves in the wide range of activities and clubs KWU offers, she believes there is one aspect more vital in preparing for the future.

“The relationships that you form are the most important thing,” she stated. “To be able to make some impact in those relationships is more important than any accomplishment you could have.”

As her fellowship comes to a close, Moore will join the faculty at the University of Michigan to continue her research and rheumatology practice. Moore looks forward to a lifetime of love for the art of medicine, and with it, her love for humanity.

Story by Eric Brown