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Tackling public health threats — from cancer to child sexual abuse

The Bloomberg School of Public Health tackles the direct threats to global public health. New Health Advisory Board Chair Steve Moore wants to make sure the world knows all about it.
Posted April 21, 2016
Stephen G. Moore, MD Stephen G. Moore, MD

Steve Moore, MD, MPH '93 (SPH), found the inspiration for his life's work under a microscope. As a second-year medical student at Indiana University, Moore was comparing healthy lung cells with samples of tissue ravaged by lung cancer. The healthy cells were remarkably organized, he recalls, but the cancer cells "looked like a war zone after a bomb goes off. You can't restore that damage — you can only hope to prevent it."

Born in that laboratory, Moore's passion to stop health threats before they start led him to a preventive medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and, concurrently, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he completed a master's degree in health policy and management. Two decades later, Moore, now the president and chief executive officer of CarDon & Associates, a provider of senior living communities in central Indiana, remains vitally engaged in the Bloomberg School and recently succeeded the late Frank Hurley as its Health Advisory Board chair.

"This school is a vehicle and public health is a methodology through which we can face the major challenges in our world," he says.

One of those major challenges is child sexual abuse — something Moore has a personal stake in eradicating. His grandfather was a pedophile, and some of his victims came from within Moore's own family.

"You can't undo the past — but can you prevent someone else from having the same past you had?" Moore says, describing the impetus for the generous gift he and his wife, Julia Dutton-Moore, made in 2012 to establish the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, the first academic research center to focus on the issue.

"With the Moores' funding, we're able to look at some of the most difficult, thorny challenges that child sexual abuse presents — the biggest being, how do we get the American public to believe that this is preventable in the first place?" says Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center and an associate professor of mental health in the Bloomberg School.

Already, the Moores' investment is yielding returns. The center has hosted two symposia — a third is scheduled this month — to bring together scholars and policymakers for discussions of the latest research and policies directed at child sexual abuse prevention. And Letourneau has spearheaded the development of promising prevention initiatives. One program, currently under review by the National Institutes of Health, targets the parents of 12- and 13-year-old-children, providing resources to help them speak constructively with their children about sexual curiosity and encourage safe behaviors.

"A lot of other institutions would have hesitated on this controversial issue, but Hopkins didn't blink, and they've taken on this challenge fearlessly," Moore says.

As the new Health Advisory Board chair, he seeks to raise awareness of the Bloomberg School's leadership on the issue of child sexual abuse prevention — but also to highlight the countless ways its faculty, fellows, and students improve life for human beings everywhere, every day. Their research on the Zika virus, gun violence, clean water access, and even car seat safety affects billions.

"I'd really like to see us tell our story in a way that will help people understand how we're changing their lives," Moore says.

Bloomberg School Dean Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH '87 (SPH), agrees. "Public health can be a hard thing to understand and explain. Someone like Steve — someone who understands the importance of what we do and can make that argument, is essential for a Health Advisory Board chair. He leads by example, and like Frank [Hurley] before him, he inspires others to do more."

That's an enormous compliment for Moore, who aspires to fill his predecessor's large shoes. And as he does, he'll reflect on Hurley's own words, shared when Moore first joined the board.

"In a phone call, I asked Frank, 'What are the time demands — is it worth it?' He said, other than raising his children, the work he did with the Bloomberg School was the most important contribution he's made in his life," Moore says. "I hope to emulate that dedication."