Debra Moore says she has always wanted to be a nurse, so she can help other people when they need it most.
After moving to Chattanooga at age 4, she was raised by three strong women -- her mother, aunt and grandmother -- and Moore has followed in those footsteps throughout her career at Chattanooga's CHI Memorial Hospital.
For most of her 35 years there, although she has not been directly involved in delivering patient care -- she says she enjoys helping those who do, by serving in a variety of leadership roles.
"It was a lifelong calling for me to be a nurse," she says. "And now I have the privilege of taking care of people who take care of other people."
Moore ultimately rose through the ranks and even headed CHI Memorial as interim CEO briefly in 2008.
"I've always told the good Lord to 'just put me where you want me,' thinking that was going to be somewhere less; but I've been very blessed and privileged to have had some great opportunities in my career," Moore says.
After working as a night nurse in Memorial's cardiac surgery unit, Moore was named nursing director of medical surgery and telemetry at the Glenwood hospital for seven years; and in 2000 was named nursing director at Hixson North Park. Two years later, Moore was chosen as the administrator for North Park. And in 2006, based upon her success in various management roles, then-CEO Ruth Brinkley named her as chief operating officer for all of CHI Memorial hospitals. A couple of years later when Brinkley left Memorial, Moore served as the interim CEO for 11 months until Jim Hopson was selected to fill the role.
Moore returned to the chief operating officer job and then Hixson hospital administrator before being named in 2016 to head Memorial's oncology department. Under her leadership, CHI Memorial Rees Skillern Cancer Institute achieved American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) APex Accreditation and was re-accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). CHI Memorial is one of only three cancer centers in Tennessee to achieve such accreditation.
Moore insists that putting the patient's interest first, and maintaining employee communication and support have been key to achieving success. She makes rounds regularly, talking with her employees and the physicians, to help give them the support they need.
"Deb understands the importance of rounding on staff," says Brittany Hennessee, director of breast services at CHI Memorial. "This may seem simple, but it means the world to my staff. She consistently goes to all our breast centers to round on all staff. Deb knows their names and asks about their families and their lives outside of work."
Such management support is especially important in the current tight labor market for nurses and other hospital staff.
"This the most challenging labor market I've seen in my 35 years in the industry," Moore says. "So, effective and supportive management of employees has never been more important."
* Role: Senior vice president of operations at CHI Memorial Hospital.
* Career: She began at CHI Memorial in 1987 and has served as nursing director, administrator of North Park hospital, head of oncology, chief operating officer and interim CEO for all CHI hospitals.
* Personal: Moore and her husband have been married for 44 years and have two grown children and five grandchildren.